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OF 1778 



"La Diplomatic . . . re peut, elle re doit 
avoir quun but, la force et la grandeur 
du pays qiielle represented - Capefigue 



Copyright, 1916, by 


Reprinted 1962 with permission 

Printed in the United States of America 







The materials for the following study were 
assembled more than ten years ago as a part of 
work done for the doctorate, at the Universities 
of Michigan and Pennsylvania. About two 
years ago I had prepared for publication the por- 
tion of the present volume comprising, essen- 
tially, chapters I, V, and VIII-XV, when Mr. 
P. C. Phillips' The West in the Diplomacy of 
the American Revolution appeared, covering 
much of the ground of several of these chapters. 
I then decided to enlarge the scope of the volume 
to that of a general history of the one entangling 
alliance to which the United States has been 

I have been particularly interested in these 
pages in emphasizing the idea that France's in- 
tervention in the American Revolution was moti- 
vated primarily by her desire to recover her lost 
preeminence on the Continent of Europe. Writ- 
ers have sometimes made verbal recognition of 
this fact, but in the case of American writers at 
least, they have generally failed to appreciate its 
really controlling importance for the subject, 
and in the end have usually contrived thanks, 


no doubt, to Professor Seeley's famous dictum 
to present French intervention as an episode 
in the British-French struggle for colonial do- 
minion in the Western Hemisphere rather than 
for what it really was, an episode in the Euro- 
pean policy of the Ancien Regime. A second 
phase of the general subject to which I have 
given prominence is the embarrassment which 
resulted to France from the conflict of interest 
between her new ally, America, and her heredi- 
tary ally, Spain, a conflict which greatly en- 
hanced the difficulty of getting Spain into the 
war in the first place ; which subsequently forced 
France to make a very restrictive interpretation 
of certain of her engagements with the United 
States; and which finally eventuated in the 
breach of their instructions by the American 
commissioners at the negotiations of 1782. Last- 
ly, I have felt that it would be a service to 
American students to make the materials in 
Doniol's monumental work more available. 
These materials, supplemented by the other 
sources that I have used, will be found, I think, 
to furnish adequate basis for judgment with ref- 
erence to most, if not all, of the more important 
questions likely to suggest themselves to an 
American student of the Alliance of 1778. 

In gathering my materials I have incurred ob- 
ligations to several libraries, which I gladly take 
this opportunity to acknowledge: to the Penn- 



sylvania Historical Society, the American Philo- 
sophical Society, and the Ridgeway Branch Li- 
braries of Philadelphia, for the use of numerous 
eighteenth century publications, both French 
and English; to the University of Pennsylvania 
Library, for the use of its extensive collection of 
materials on the Mercantile System; to the Har- 
vard University Library, for the use of the Jared 
Sparks Manuscripts ; to the American Antiquar- 
ian Society Library at Worcester, for the use of 
newspapers of the Revolutionary period; to the 
Library of Congress for numerous services. I 
should also note a more special obligation to the 
staffs of the University of Michigan and the Uni- 
versity of Pennsylvania Libraries and of the 
Princeton University Library, for many 

My other indebtednesses are not extensive, but 
they are deep. I wish especially to record my 
grateful recognition of the aid which I received 
from my teachers, Professors A. C. McLaughlin 
and W. E. Lingelbach, in the early stages of my 

E. S. C. 

May 25, 1916. 



I The Question of Motive 1 

II The Classical System and British Sea-Power 23 

III Vergennes Discovers the American Revolt 54 

IV The Portuguese and Corsair Questions ... 80 

V Florida Blanca Defines Spam's Position. . 105 

VI Vergennes, Alarmist and Propagandist. . . 121 

VII The Treaty of Alliance and Outbreak of 

War 149 

VIII Spanish Mediation and the Convention of 

Aranjuez 173 

IX The Two Alliances Compared 195 

X The Mississippi and Western Land Ques- 
tion 217 

XI Sieur Gerard and the Continental Congress 243 

XII The Mission of La Luzerne 263 

XIII The Crisis of the Revolution 284 

XIV Jay's Mission to Spain 318 

XV Jay and the Negotiations of 1782 329 

XVI Profit and Loss 361 

Bibliographical Note 379 

Appendices 385 

Index . . 415 




The great majority of students today would, 
I suppose, concede that but for our alliance with 
France, the War of Independence would have 
ended without independence, and that but for the 
aid which France lent us secretly in the months 
preceding Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, we 
should hardly have become allies of His most 
Christian Majesty, at least on anything like 
terms of equality. To emphasize the efficacy and 
indispensability of French aid in the Revolution 
is, however, only to throw into higher light its 
aspects of paradox : the oldest and most despotic 
monarchy of Europe making common cause 
with rebels against a sister monarchy; a govern- 
ment on the verge of bankruptcy deliberately 
provoking a war that, to all appearances cer- 
tainly, it might have easily avoided. Ignorance 
of the dangers it invited might conceivably afford 
a partial explanation of the course taken by the 
French government in the years between 1776 
and 1783, but in fact the explanation is available 
in only slight measure. The risk to a monarch in 


promoting rebellion, albeit in another's domin- 
ions, was clearly present to Louis' mind, while 
the unfitness of the royal exchequer for the bur- 
dens of war was pressed upon him by Turgot 
with all possible insistence. 

Bancroft explains France's championship of 
American independence thus: "Many causes 
combined to produce the alliance of France and 
the American republic, but the forces which 
brought all influences harmoniously together, 
over-ruling the timorous levity of Maurepas and 
the dull reluctance of Louis XVI was the move- 
ment of intellectual freedom." 1 

The important element of truth in this theory 
is unquestionable. The direction and momentum 
of French popular sentiment established, to some 
extent certainly, the possibilities and limitations 
of French official action, and this sentiment was 
in turn to no inconsiderable extent the product 
of the liberalism of the age. Nevertheless, the 
idea that France ought to intervene, if chance 
offered, between England and her North Ameri- 
can colonies in behalf of the latter, came in the 
first instance, not from the salon but the Foreign 
Office. And it is not less clear that the precise 
policy pursued by the French government toward 
the United States from 1776 on was shaped, not 
by philosophers but by professional diplomatists. 

1 History of the United States (Author's last revision), V. 256. 
See also ib., 264 ff. 


Confining then our attention from the outset 
to the question of what were the official motives 
of French intervention, we have naturally to con- 
sider in the first instance the Count de Vergen- 
nes' argument in behalf of his program, which 
eventually became that of the French govern- 
ment, that however the American situation even- 
tuated, it carried with it the substantial risk for 
France of having to come finally to the defense of 
her Caribbean possessions against an English at- 
tack; since if England subjugated America she 
would be tempted to turn the large forces she 
would have on hand to some profitable employ- 
ment, whereas if she did not, she would make 
allies of those whom she had lost as subjects in 
an endeavor to compensate herself at the ex- 
pense of France. 2 

It was a theory calculated to appeal strongly 
to the French mind of that day and generation. 
The Seven Years War had been begun by the 
British government in the midst of negotiations 
without a word of warning. It had been con- 
ducted by Chatham in a spirit of ferocious anti- 
pathy toward France and her ruling House. 3 It 
had been concluded by a peace which had been 

2 Henri Doniol, Histoire de la Participation de la France a 
I'fitablissement des titats-Unis d'Amerique (Paris, 1886-99), 
I. 273-5; II. 460, 462-3. Cited hereafter as "Doniol." 

'Expressions of Vergennes' distrust of Chatham will be found 
in Doniol I. 61-2, 67-72. At the same time he admits in effect the 
unlikelihood of George Ill's calling him to power, ib., 62. 


roundly denounced by an influential section of 
the English public for restoring to France Eng- 
lish conquests in the Caribbean. Moreover, the 
violence of English party contests was notorious ; 
and to men to whom it had not yet become evident 
in what a powerful leash George III held Parlia- 
ment it was natural to suppose that, rather than 
incur the penalty of a too long delayed triumph 
in America, the North ministry would be ready, 
if worse came to worst, to resort to the most 
desperate expedients. 

And not only did the argument in question 
strike hands with the popular French estimate of 
British policy; it also countered admirably the 
strongest argument against French intervention 
in America, namely, that it meant war with Eng- 
land. Yet these very considerations should 
perhaps put us on our guard against too spon- 
taneously crediting Vergennes with complete 
sincerity in this matter; or if we decide to ac- 
cord him that, we should at least remember his 
own warning, that "it is human nature to 
believe readily that which one desires most 
ardently." 4 

The evidence presented by Vergennes to sup- 
port a plea of self-defense in behalf of France's 
action in America we shall pass upon later. 
Here we need only weigh some more general con- 
siderations militating against that plea: To 

4 Ib., II. 790. 


begin with, the risks involved in attempting to aid 
the Colonies secretly were obvious from the first; 
yet it is on the increment of danger resulting from 
his own policy at this point that Vergennes based 
in part his argument for an open alliance with 
the Colonies. 5 Again, by his own argument, the 
danger that confronted France arose alike from 
the prospect of English victory and of English 
defeat in America; yet it will be found that he 
was quite ready to retreat from his program of 
alliance with America whenever English victory 
seemed seriously to impend. 6 In other words, it 
would seem that, while the danger menacing 
France from the prospect of an immediate Eng- 
lish triumph in America was one to be awaited 
in calm the calm of despair, forsooth the dan- 
ger which threatened from the opposite contin- 
gency was one that must be met half-way. Yet 
it was the latter contingency precisely which the 
policy of secret aid was designed to make sure! 7 
But, again, while a British attack upon her Carib- 
bean possessions would, of course, have forced 
France to come to their defense, it may be ser- 
iously doubted whether French official opinion 
held these possessions after 1763 in sufficient es- 
teem to have warranted a policy that materially 
increased the likelihood of a serious war of which 

5 76 .,724. 

6 Ib., I. 567-75 and 613-21 ; also II. 526-9, 534-6, 539, and 551-5. 

7 lb., I. 247-8. 


their security would be the main objective. 8 In- 
deed Vergennes himself declared more than once 
that the French West Indies could offer but 
slight temptation to English cupidity, that Eng- 
land already had enough of that sort of thing; 9 
and it is significant that during the negotiations 
of 1782 he stood ready to surrender some of the 
most valuable items of these possessions if he 
could thereby procure Gibraltar for Spain. 10 
Finally, there is good reason for believing that 
France could, at any time before 1778, have ob- 
tained from England a specific guaranty of her 
American holdings a guaranty which Spain 
would have been glad to sanction, and which Eng- 
land would have been slow to violate, so long at 
any rate as peace continued on the Continent. 11 

8 See the remarks of M. Abeille, quoted infra. In the same 
connection one should also recall the pacifist attitude of the 
French government early in 1777 toward the question of defending 
Santo Domingo, the obvious explanation of it being the fear of 
arousing suspicion on the part of Great Britain that would pre- 
judice the policy of secret aid: Doniol, II. 234-41, 253, 264-5, 272-5. 

9 Ib., II. 643-4; III. 50-1. See also Life of Arthur Lee, I. 361. 

10 Ib., V. 220. It should also be noted that throughout the war 
France definitely subordinated obvious opportunities to enlarge 
her holdings in the West Indies to other objectives. "Au vrai," 
says Lavisse, "les interets coloniaux paraissaient a Vergennes, 
comme^a presque tous les hommes d'Etat francais, de mediocre 
importance," Histoire, IX. 1 117. 

"Both at the end of 1776 and in the spring of 1777, the 
British Government suggested a common disarmament on the 
part of England, France, and Spain, Doniol, II. 145-54, 232. 
An earnest advocate of such a plan, which was to be accompanied 


The principal reason for Vergennes' constant 
employment of the line of argument under discus- 
sion undoubtedly lies in its propagandist use. 
Before, of course, any diplomatic program could 
be entered upon it had to receive the assent of the 
king. Had the idea of an aggressive program 
been unbiased by other considerations it would 
probably have had Louis' assent from the start, 
for ignorant as he was of domestic affairs, he was 
well versed in dynastic politics and jealous for 
the honor of his House. But unfortunately 
for such a program, Louis had ascended the 
throne promising reforms that forbade ambitious 
schemes abroad; and besides, an endeavor to 

by a joint guaranty by the parties to it France, Spain, England, 
and Portugal of their possessions in America and the two Indies, 
was Beaumarchais' friend Lord Rochford, a member of the 
ministry, Wharton, III. 727-8. Vergennes however had from the 
first been averse to seeking any sort of understanding with Eng- 
land, Doniol, I. 51-2; P. C. Phillips, The West in the Diplomacy 
of the American Revolution (Univ. of 111., 1913), 38 fn. 25 and 
54 fn. 74; B. F. Stevens, Facsimiles of Manuscripts in European 
Archives Relating to America, 1773-1783 (London, 1889-98, 25, 
vols., cited hereafter as SMSS.), Nos. 1533, 1544, and 1549. In 
Aug., 1777, we find Vergennes arguing against France's accepting 
a British guaranty of French and Spanish possessions, Doniol, 
II. 528-9. At the very end of the year, that is after Saratoga, if 
we are to credit a statement attributed by the Spanish ambas- 
sador Aranda to Vergennes, the English government was offer- 
ing France the Island of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, together 
with extensive rights in the Newfoundland fisheries, if France in 
return would close her ports to the rebels. Aranda to Florida 
Blanca, Jan. 31, 1778, Sparks MSS. (Harvard Univ. Library), 
CII. See also SMSS., No. 1838. 


strike at England through America involved the 
naturally unwelcome idea of assisting rebels." 11 * 
Nor could Vergennes' calculations stop short with 
his own sovereign. For the logic of the Family 
Compact clearly exacted that the Spanish court 
too should be consulted about measures that 
might involve it in war. How, then, could the 
Foreign Office better meet the twofold necessity 
before it than by giving its program as much as 
possible of the appearance of a program of de- 
fense? With Louis the device succeeded, and 
probably no other would have. At Madrid, on 
the contrary, though the argument was plumed 
especially for the favorite anxieties of that 
court, it failed utterly; with the result however 
that the argument of defense had to be pressed 
upon Louis with fresh insistence, in order to in- 
duce him to take a line different from that of his 
uncle and ally. 

In short, while the argument that England 
designed to attack her Caribbean possessions 
assisted materially in bringing France into the 
Revolution, especially by tending to minimize 

Ua One of the few literary remains of any importance from the 
hand of Louis XVI is a note scribbled on the margin of a Projet 
of the "Expos6 des Motifs de la Conduite de la France," etc., of 
1779, to protest against Vergennes' assertion that France had only 
recognized a people already free. "Cette observation," runs the 
royal gloss, "pourrait autoriser . . . 1'Angleterre a aider ouverte- 
ment les mecontents si souvent agites en Bretagne, nos protestants, 
et tous les Francais discordants d'avec l'utorit royale." Cape- 
figue, Louis XVI (Paris, 1856), 107-9. See also Appendix IV. 


with the king the weightiest consideration 
against such a project, it does not follow that the 
defense of these possessions furnished the princi- 
pal purpose of French intervention. The central 
core of Vergennes' program from the first was 
aid to the Americans in the achievement of their 
independence', and the prospect of American in- 
dependence necessarily brought into view objec- 
tives which far overshadowed the security of the 
French West Indies, either momentary or per- 
manent. French intervention in the Revolution 
was, in other words, determined by motives of 
"aggression" rather than of "defense"; which is 
to say that its real purpose was the upsetting of 
the status quo in certain particulars rather than 
its preservation in certain others. But in what 
particulars? Was France's objective territory, 
or commerce, or was it something less tangible 
than either of these ? 

The possibility that it was territory is raised 
by the contention of Professor Turner that 
France hoped in the Revolution to replace Eng- 
land in Canada and Spain in Louisiana. In sup- 
port of this thesis Professor Turner adduces 
first, the testimony of Godoy, "the Prince of 
Peace," that after the war was over, Vergennes, 
counting upon the close union between France 
and Spain, sought to induce the latter, "already 
so rich in possessions beyond the sea, to give to 


France her ancient colony"; secondly, the fact 
that during the war Vergennes appeared anxious 
"to protect the interests of Spain in the country 
between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi"; 
and thirdly, a document published in Paris in 
1802 under the caption Memoir e historique et 
politique sur la Louisiane par M. de Vergennes. 12 
Upon closer scrutiny each item of this evidence 
must for one reason or other be disallowed. The 
reliability of the testimony of Godoy, who did 
not come into power until six years after Ver- 
gennes' death, is in itself questionable, but even 
if it be accepted at face value it says nothing of 
Vergennes' intentions before and during the 
Revolution. Vergennes' attitude during that 
period toward Spain's claims to the territory be- 
tween the Alleghenies and the Mississippi is 
sufficiently accounted for by his feeling that it 
was necessary to harmonize the conflicting in- 
terests of the United States and Spain, each of 
whom was in alliance with France against Eng- 
land. The document published in 1802, though 
it may possibly date from the Revolution, was not 
the work of Vergennes nor yet of any one who 
spoke for him. Not only does the program that 
it proposes directly traverse, in its reference to 
Canada, the pledge of His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty in article VI of the Treaty of Alliance, re- 
nouncing "forever the possession ... of any 

u American Historical Review, X. 249 ff. 


part of the continent" that had lately belonged 
to Great Britain, but it materially conflicts with 
the policy which Professor Turner himself ac- 
knowledges that Vergennes pursued, of support- 
ing Spain's claims in the region between the 
Alleghenies and the Mississippi. This policy 
was clearly designed to allay Spain's alarm at 
the prospects of American independence. The 
program urged in the Memoire of 1802 proposed, 
on the contrary, the deliberate aggravation of 
this alarm as the easiest means of inducing Spain 
to relinquish Louisiana to the stronger hands of 
France. 13 

1J See the Memoire, pp. 25-30. Other considerations that forbid 
the attribution of this document to Vergennes or official asso- 
ciates of his are the following: It is to be noted that while the 
anonymous editor of the Mtmoire assumes to vouch for "the style, 
the thoughts" of the document as being those of the French secre- 
tary, he says nothing of a signature, nor does any appear in the 
published form. The Memoire is also devoid of certain distinctive 
marks of a French official document addressed to royalty. The 
most obvious consisting in the failure of the writer (or compiler) 
ever to refer to France and Spain by the titles of their Bourbon 
rulers. If we are to rely upon the silence of the Inventaire Som- 
maire, no memoir on Louisiana exists in the French archives of the 
date to which the Mtmoire published in 1802 is assigned by its 
editor, though several are to be found there of an earlier date 
from which this one might have been fabricated, and to one of 
these the editor makes specific reference in a footnote. Further- 
more, the fact that the Mtmoire of 1802 was, if at this point we 
are to follow the editor, found among Vergennes' own papers of 
itself casts doubt on its ever having been presented to the king. 
In connection with his statement that "both French and Ameri- 
can bibliographers have accepted" the "genuineness" of the 


But if France's objective was not territory, 
perhaps it was commerce? Unquestionably there 
was a widespread belief in France early in the 
Revolution, which was appealed to not only by 

Mtmoire, Professor Turner cites only the Voyage a la Louisiana 
of Baudry des Lozieres. Yet Baudry, while praising the Memoir* 
for "plusieurs des ses vues qui sont tres sages," directly challenges 
the assertion that it was the work of Vergennes. "If," says he, 
"M. de Vergennes has any part in these memoirs, it is only a very 
small part." But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the 
document under consideration is (assuming it to date from before 
1783) the ignorance it discloses on the part of its author that by 
the Treaty of 1763 Florida belonged to Great Britain (see pp. 26 
and 30). The Duke of Newcastle is reported to have once ad- 
dressed a despatch to "the Governor of the Island of Massachu- 
setts." But Vergennes was neither a British peer nor a 
spoilsman in office, but a man noted among his contemporaries for 
the range and accuracy of his information in the field of diplo- 
macy. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that he was fully aware 
that France's closest ally had lost an extensive province by the 
Peace of Paris and had been compensated by France herself with 
a still more extensive one. Besides, as is shown below, the 
Memoire of 1802, considered as an entity, must by any assumption 
date from a period later than early January, 1778. Before this 
however, Holker, in instructions dated Nov. 25, 1777, was informed 
by the French Foreign Office that his government wished to see 
England left in possession of Florida, Nova Scotia and Canada, 
Doniol, II. 616. Upon careful examination of it I am convinced 
that the Memoire of 1802 comprises two earlier documents loosely 
joined together by the author of the short address "Au Roi," 
chapter I, and certain paragraphs of chapter X of the published 
document. The first of these two earlier documents comprises 
most of chapters II-X of the Memoire of 1802 and was written 
before the outbreak of the Seven Years War to refute Great 
Britain's claim to the region then in dispute between France and 
Great Britain. It closed with a plan of compromise in the form 
of a proposed treaty between the two nations, which plan is 


the American envoys but by Vergennes himself 
on occasion, that if France assisted the United 
States to their independence, American trade 

touched up at points by the compiler of the 1802 document. The 
second of the earlier documents was written after the events 
described in pages 162 to 169 of the published volume i.e. about 
1769 to protest against the then recent cession of Louisiana to 
Spain. The entire separateness of the two documents is attested 
by the words with which the second one opens ("Ce me*moire a pour 
but," etc., p. 115), by the vastly different styles of the two 
documents, and by their diverse spelling of certain proper names. 
(In the latter connection compare pp. 57 and 150-1; also pp. 61 
and 172.) When, then, was this compilation made? Dismissing 
the editor's assertion that the document was the work of Ver- 
gennes, but taking the document itself at face value, it was 
brought together after the outbreak of the War of Independence 
(Chapters I and X), but before the Treaty of Alliance recogniz- 
ing American independence was known (the United States are 
always referred to as "colonies" and "provinces" and on p. 180, 
the compiler speaks of "strengthening the peace "between France 
and Great Britain") ; also during a warlike situation on the Conti- 
nent (pp. 27 and 103, by the compiler). But this last condition 
can be satisfied, for the period between 1775 and 1781, only by 
supposing the references just cited to have been to the events lead- 
ing up to the so-called War of the Bavarian Succession. If, then, 
the M6moire of 1802 is to be assigned as a whole to the period of 
the American Revolution, it must be placed between late Jan- 
uary and the middle of March, 1778. We know that, in the 
months preceding France's intervention, numerous memoirs were 
transmitted to the Foreign Office, and the Memoire of 1802 may 
therefore represent one from a sheaf of similar later productions. 
Doniol I. 242 footnote. Mr. Paul C. Phillips, on the other hand, 
conjectures plausibly that the document published in 1802 owes 
its existence to an effort to bolster up Napoleon's then recent 
acquisition of Louisiana, The West in the Diplomacy of th* 
American Revolution p. 30 fn. 2. 


would turn forthwith to French ports. 14 Yet 
squarely confronted with the theory that this 
belief had been material in determining his pro- 
gram, Vergennes unqualifiedly rejected the no- 
tion. "They perhaps think at Madrid," he wrote 
after the alliance had been determined upon, 
"that the interest of acquiring a new trade had 
principally decided us." But he repelled the 
suggestion thus: "This motive, assessed at its 
true worth, can be only a very feeble accessory. 
American trade, viewed in its entirety and sub- 
ject to the monopoly of the mother-country, was 
undoubtedly a great object of interest to the 
latter and an important source of the growth of 
her industry and power. But American trade, 
thrown open as it is to be henceforth to the avid- 
ity of all nations, will be for France a very petty 
consideration." 15 

These words of Vergennes have, however, no 
merely negative value ; they bring us in fact to the 
very threshold of the object of our quest. Offi- 
cial thinking about trade was moulded in the 

14 Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolu- 
tion (Washington, 1889), II. 79; Deane Papers (N. Y. Hist'l Soc. 
Cols., 1886), I. 181, 184 ff., 207; Doniol, I. 244. Deane later 
changed his views on this as well as certain other subjects. In 
his letter of June 10, 1781, to Robert Morris, he says: "America 
left at liberty will, I am persuaded, take at least three-fourths 
of the European articles she wants from Great Britain," Deane 
Papers, IV. 406. 

15 Doniol III. 140. Madrid received its impression from Aranda, 
Aranda to Florida Blanca, Jan. 31, 1778, Sparks MSS., CII. 


eighteenth century in vast part by the categories 
of what is called "the Mercantile System," and 
it is the significance of the words just quoted 
that they show Vergennes to have been of this 
school. The salient features of Mercantilism 
mark it at once a system of statecraft rather 
than of economics, at least in any modern sense of 
these terms. Thus wealth was identified with 
that form of it in which, in a period when the 
machinery of public credit was rudimentary and 
the usual cement of international alliances was 
provided by cash subsidies, it was most available 
for political purposes. Again, the welfare of the 
subject was assessed for its contribution to the 
power of the state. Finally, the power of the 
state was evaluated in the terms furnished by the 
doctrine of the Balance of Power. But granting 
these premises and it followed, first, that the prin- 
cipal advantage to be sought from trade was a 
balance payable in coin or bullion, and secondly, 
that the most desirable branch of trade was that 
which was most susceptible of manipulation to 
produce such a balance, in other words, colonial 
trade. For subject as it was, within the laws of 
nature, to the unlimited control of the mother- 
country, the colony could be compelled to obtain 
all its manufactures from the mother-country 
and to return therefor raw materials and a cash 
balance. At least, by furnishing the mother- 
country raw materials which she would otherwise 


have to purchase from her political rivals, the 
colony would contribute directly to the mainten- 
ance of a favorable balance of trade and, pro 
tanto, to that of a favorable balance of power, 
against those rivals. 16 

M A good general account of the rise of Mercantilism and of its 
principles is to be found in C. F. Bastable's Commerce of Nations 
(1899), ch. IV. For an admirable statement of the connection 
which mercantilist theory and policy established between colonies 
and commerce, see Prof. C. M. Andrews, American Historical 
Review, XX. 43 ff. "During the greater part of our colonial period 
commerce and colonies were correlative terms, unthinkable each 
without the other," ib. 43. See also the same writer's article, 
ib., XX. 589 if., entitled "Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, 1700- 
1750." "France and England were fairly matched rivals, in 
that their policies were the same, to acquire colonies in the inter- 
est of trade, shipping, and manufactures, to exclude the foreigner 
from the colonial market, and to make the welfare and wealth of 
the mother state the first and chief object of the efforts of all, 
colonies and mother-country alike," ib., 546. It will be noted that 
Professor Andrews makes welfare the objective of the mercantile 
policy, but power would perhaps be the better word even for 
English mercantilism. Note the following passage quoted by 
Professor Andrews from Otis Little's The State of the Trade of the 
Northern Colonies Considered (1748), pp. 8-9: "As every state in 
Europe seems desirous of increasing its trade, and the acquisition 
of wealth enlarges the means of power, it is necessary, in order 
to preserve an equality with them, that this kingdom extend its 
commerce in proportion; but to acquire a superiority due en- 
couragement ought to be given to such of its branches as will 
most effectually enrich its inhabitants. As trade enables the 
subject to support the administration of government, the lessen- 
ing or destroying that of a rival has the same effect as if this 
kingdom had enlarged the sources of its own wealth. But as an 
ascendancy is to be gained by checking the growth of theirs, as 
well as by the increase of our own, whenever one of these happens 
to be the consequence of the other to this nation, it* figure and 


Applying these considerations to the case of 
French intervention in the American Revolution, 
we note at once that by the Treaty of Amity and 
Commerce all privileges of trade were to be "mu- 
tual" and none given France but what the United 

reputation will rise to a greater height than ever." Ib., 543 foot- 
note. In other words, the mercantilist looked beyond the welfare 
of the subject to the power and reputation of the State, and these 
he measured by the standard set by the doctrine of the Balance 
of Power. The same point is also brought out by a passage from 
Postlethwayt's Britain's Commercial Interest Explained and Im- 
proved (1757): "I next enter upon the general principles whereon 
the balance of trade is founded the consideration of which is 
earnestly recommended to the public regard, in order to throw 
the balance of trade so effectually into the hands of Great Britain 
as to put the constant balance of power in Europe into her hands," 
ib., II. 551. See also Gentleman's Magazine, XII. 589 (Nov., 
1742): "Now, that Money is the Sinews of War, is become a 
proverbial Expression; and, with Respect to Great Britain, it is 
notorious we can do nothing without it. Almost all we did in 
the last Struggle with the Grand Monarch, was by the Dint of 
Money. If we had Numbers of Allies, we were obliged to pay them 
all; and whereas every other Power in the Confederacy run into 
Arrears with their Engagements, we not only made good our 
Proportions, but often exceeded them. . . . But, to suppose what 
is impossible, that we still roll in Riches, who is to join with us in 
this mighty Enterprise, of wrestling the Balance of Europe out 
of the strong Hand that hath lately held it?" See further the 
index of this same periodical under titles, "Balance of Power" 
and "France," for other instructive passages along the same 
lines, especially in the volumes covering the years from 1737 to 
1742. Naturally in France, where the dynastic principle was the 
exclusive basis of the state, the political aspect of Mercantilism 
was predominant. Recall Colbert's assertion: "I believe that 
most people would be agreed that the quantity of gold in a state 
alone determines the degree of its greatness and power," Lettres, 
etc. (P. Clement, ed.) II. pt. 2, ccvii. See also infra. 


States were left at liberty to grant to any other 
nation, while by the Treaty of Alliance, its "es- 
sential and direct end" was stated to be the 
achievement of American independence not only 
in matters of government but of commerce also. 17 
In other words, we discover that the real com- 
mercial motive underlying the alliance was not 
the hope of building up French trade which it 
was supposed could hardly be done effectively or 
advantageously without the machinery of mon- 
opoly but that of breaking down British trade 
at the point at which, by mercantilist premises, it 
most immediately supported British power. The 
commercial motive merges itself with a larger 
political motive: the enfeeblement of England. 
The lesson that Englishmen themselves drew 
from their magnificent triumph in the Seven 
Years War is to be found in the famous lament of 
Chatham on the news of Saratoga: America "was 

17 Treaty of Amity and Commerce, preamble ; Treaty of Alli- 
ance, art. II. 

"Congress* original intention was to throw open its commerce 
to all friendly nations on terms of equality, and the argument 
was made with France that if she gave America aid the grati- 
tude of the American people would secure her a preemption of 
American trade. Wharton, II. 79 and 235. Later, December 30, 
1776, the instructions of Congress enlarged the discretion of the 
commissioners as to the terms they might offer France and Spain 
very greatly, ib., 240-1. Eventually, the commissioners offered 
France certain exclusive privileges in connection with American 
trade, but these Vergennes declined, in order to remove every 
temptation from the way of the Americans that might lead them 
to a reconciliation with England, Doniol, II. 837. 


indeed the fountain of our wealth, the nerve of 
our strength, the nursery and basis of our naval 
power." 19 But what should be especially noted 
of these words is that they refer to the part of 
America then in revolt, that is, to continental 
America. Anterior to 1760 this could hardly 
have been the case. For then the emphasis was 
still on colonies as sources of supply, with the re- 
sult that when British opinion appraised the two 
parts of British America, it gave the preference 
to the island and tropical portion. The Treaty 
of Paris, however, signalizes a new point of view. 
Not only had continental America made direct 
contributions to the military forces of the mother- 
country in the course of the war just closed, but 
its increasing importation of British manufac- 
tures in exchange for raw materials now netted a 
favorable balance that quite eclipsed the calcul- 
able benefits from the West Indian trade. Fur- 
thermore, inasmuch as the colonial trade had 
always been regarded as the essential matrix of 
British naval strength, popular esteem naturally 
turned increasingly to that branch of this trade 
which promised a progressive extension. The 
upshot of these developments is to be seen in the 
decision of the British government, registered in 

"Speech of Nov. 18, 1777, Parliamentary History, XIX. col. 
365, footnote. See to the same effect Burke's speech of Nov. 27, 
1781, ib., cols. 721-2. See also the opening paragraph of Deane's 
memoir on the "Commerce of America and its Importance to 
Europe," cited above, Deane Papers, I. 184. 


the Treaty of Paris, to retain Canada instead of 
Guadaloupe and Martinique from its French 
conquests. No doubt the decision was in part 
motivated by a desire to meet the demands of 
New England ; but the discussion that attended it 
proves that it is also to be regarded as a deliberate 
reappraisement by England of the relative value 
of the two sections of her western empire. 20 

The reaction of France, on the other hand, to 
the lesson of the Treaty of Paris was conditioned 
in the first instance by the plain impossibility of 
further competition with Great Britain in the 
field of colonization, at least so long as British 
naval strength remained predominant. However, 
the doctrine of the Balance of Power which, as I 
have already pointed out, was the political ob- 
verse of Mercantilism, emphasized the notion that 
the grand desideratum for a state was not so much 
a certain absolute quantum of power as a certain 
rank of power in relation to other rival states, 
that, in short, power was relative. But this prem- 
ise assumed, the opportunity presented France 
by the American revolt was a deduction at once 
inevitable and irresistible. England was France's 
ancient and hereditary enemy. The essential 
basis of English power was English commerce 
and English naval strength. The most import- 
ant source of these, in turn, was England's colo- 

20 For the matter of this paragraph, see George Louis Beer, 
British Colonial Policy, 1754-1765 (N. Y. 1907), ch. IV. 


nial empire, and especially her holdings in North 
America. The striking down once and for all 
time of the connection between England and her 
rebellious provinces would deprive her of the 
greatest single source of power and, by the same 
token, elevate the power of the House of Bour- 
bon against its most dangerous and unscrupulous 
rival. To achieve that would be worth a war 
otherwise "somewhat disadvantageous." 21 

Nor was the enfeeblement of England the only 
benefit, though the most important one, to be 
anticipated from American independence. For 
one thing, from being an ever available base of 
operations against the French West Indies, the 
new nation would be converted into their joint 
protector "forever." 22 Again, from being a bene- 
ficiary and so a prop to those rules of naval war- 
fare by which Great Britain bore so hard upon 
the commercial interests in wartime both of her 
enemies and of neutrals, the new nation would be 
pledged to a more liberal system. 23 Again, by 
leaving England her non-rebellious provinces in 

"See especially the following passages: the "Reflexions" of Dec. 
1775, Doniol, I. 243-4; the "Considerations" of Nov. 5, 1776, ib., 
686-7; the unofficial "Reflexions" of Jan. 7, 1777, given in Appendix 
II; the despatch of Mar. 11, 1777, ib., II. 239; the despatch of 
May 23, 1777, ib., 295; "M&noire" of July 23, 1777, ib., 461; the 
despatch of Dec. 13, 1777, ib., 643-4; Broglie's "Memoire" of Jan., 
1778, ib., 674 ff.; the despatch of June 20, 1778, ib., III. 140. 

* Treaty of Alliance, art. XI. 

"Treaty of Amity and Commerce, arts. XV. ffg. 


North America, a certain portion of England's 
strength and attention would be permanently 
diverted from the European balance to the main- 
tenance of a minor balance in the Western Hemi- 
sphere. 24 Yet it is obvious that these considera- 
tions too connect themselves, and for the most 
part rather directly, with the logic of the doctrine 
of the Balance of Power. Thus the real question 
raised by our search for the main objective of 
French intervention in the Revolution becomes 
the question of the main objective in the thinking 
of French statesmen of a balance of power fa- 
vorable to France. The answer to that question 
reveals the third dimension of French diplomacy 
of the Old Regime a certain dynastic tradition. 

"Doniol, III. 156-58, 557; IV. 74. 



"The diplomatic object of this crown has been 
and will always be to enjoy in Europe that role of 
leadership which accords with its antiquity, its 
worth, and its greatness; to abase every power 
which shall attempt to become superior to it, 
whether by endeavoring to usurp its possessions, 
or by arrogating to itself an unwarranted pre- 
eminence, or finally by seeking to diminish its 
influence and credit in the affairs of the world at 
large." 1 

In these words of the French Foreign Office, 
penned in 1756 to justify the Diplomatic 
Revolution, is sketched the picture that domi- 
nated French diplomacy throughout the declin- 
ing years of the Old Regime. In "the fair days 
of Louis XIV" the picture had been a reality, 

1 Recueil des Instructions donntes aux Ambassadeurs et Min- 
istres de la France depuis Us Traites de Westphalie jusqu'a la 
Revolution Frangaise (Ed. Sorel, Paris, 1884), I. (Autriche), 356; 
see also p. 383. See also the significant definitions of the function 
of Diplomacy, in Capefifue, Louis XVI, ses Relations diplo- 
matiques, 84; and in P. L., Comte de SSgur, ain, Politique de tout 
les Cabinets (2nd ed., 1801, 3 vols.), III. 370. Both Capefigue and 
S6gur were of the Old Regime and wrote from its point of view. 


which, alack, that monarch's later aggressions 
had gone far to shatter. Then Cardinal Fleury 
had come forward with his Systeme de Conserva- 
tion by which France pledged Europe that in re- 
turn for influence she would forego extension of 
dominion and that she would devote the influence 
vouchsafed her on these terms to the cause of 
Europe's peace. 2 

The success of the System for France's diplo- 
matic position was astonishing. On the eve of the 
War of the Austrian Succession the elder branch 
of the House of Bourbon, the protector of Chris- 
tion interests in the East, of Poland, Sweden, 
Turkey, Saxony, Sardinia, the German princes, 
of Don Carlos of Naples, of the emperor himself, 
and the ally of the maritime powers and of Spain, 
was the nodal point of every combination of pow- 
ers in Europe. At the same time His Most 
Christian Majesty's services as mediator were 
sought, now by Austria and Spain, now by Rus- 

2 M. de Flassan, Histoire gtnerale et raisonnte de la Diplomatic 
franqaise depuis la Fondation de la Monarchic jusqu'a la Fim 
du Regne de Louis XVI (2nd. ed., Paris 1811, 7 vols.), V. 167 ff. 
On the general principles and outlook of French diplomacy fol- 
lowing the death of Louis XIV and the orientation of Vergennes* 
policy in these, see Albert Sorel, L'Europe et la Revolution fran- 
gaise, Pt. I. (Les Meours politiques et les Traditions) (3rd ed., 
Paris, 1893), 331-6, 299-304. For some excellent eighteenth century 
expressions of the "Tradition of Grandeur," dating from Louis 
XIV, see Abb6 Raynal's Philosophical and Political History of 
the Settlements, etc. (Trans, by Justament, London, 1777), IV. 
560 ff.; V. 457 ff.; also AnquetiPs Motifs des Guerres et des 
Traites de Paix de la France (Paris, 1797), 187 ff. 


sia and Turkey, now by Austria and Russia, now 
by Spain and Portugal, now by England and 
Spain. 3 "Thanks to Cardinal Fleury," ex- 
claimed the advocate Barbier, "the king is the 
master and arbiter of Europe." 4 The aged 
Fleury himself complacently compared the posi- 
tion of France to what it had been "at the most 
brilliant epoch of Louis XIV's reign." 5 Freder- 
ick II, just ascending the throne of Prussia, 
found "the courts of Vienna, Madrid, and Stock- 
holm in a sort of tutelage" to Versailles. 6 The 
Sultan's ambassador at the coronation of Charles 
VII apostrophized Louis XV as "Grand Mon- 
arque," "King of Christian Kings," "Emperor 
of the Franks." 7 The enemies of Walpole, who 
in return for commercial favors to England had 
willingly connived in the extension of French in- 
fluence, declared that England had been made a 
cat's-paw of, that the House of Bourbon was at 

3 For these data, see Lavisse et Rambaud, Historie GtneraU, 
VII. 119-60. 

*Ib., 158. 

'Recueil des Instructions, I. 246. A pamphlet of the period 
contains a squib entitled "Jeu de Piquet entre les Puissances de 
I'Europe en 1730." "La France" heads the list, with the motto: 
"C'est a moi a jouer, j'ai la main." Far down the list is "L'Angle- 
terre," who says: "Ce n'est pas a mon tour de jouer." Cape- 
figue, Diplomatie de la France et de I'Espagne" (Paris, 1846), 108. 

Posthumous works of Frederick II (Trans, by Holcroft, Lon- 
don, 1789), I. 16. 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, XII. 54 (1742). 


the summit of power, that the balance of power 
was at an end. 8 

Nor did the war of the Austrian Succession, 
rising like a drama to its climax in the stage-tri- 
umph of Fontenoy, 9 though obviously a defeat 
for salient principles of Fleury's System, 10 sig- 
nify any lessening of France's influence on the 
Continent in the estimate of those who then 
guided her destinies. Foremost of these was the 
Marquis d'Argenson, who became in 1744 the 
king's secretary of state for Foreign Affairs on a 
platform, so to speak, interpreting the role of 
France among the nations in the light of the ris- 
ing philosophy of the age. The period of con- 
quests, Argenson declared though unhappily 
not of war was at an end, and France especially 
had reason to be content with her greatness. 
Those therefore who spoke of perfecting the 
boundaries of France or forming leagues for her 

8 See the "Debate in the Lords on Carteret's Motion for the 
Removal of Sir Robert Walpole," especially Carteret's own 
speeches, Parliamentary History, XI. col. 1047 ff. 

See Voltaire's description in his "Precis du Siecle de Louis XV," 
Oeuvres Computes (Paris, 1792), XXI. 129-48. Note especially his 
words on p. 148: "Ce qui est aussi remarquable que cette victoire, 
c'est que le premier soin du roi de France fut de faire 6crire le 
jour mme a Pabbe" de la Ville . . . , qui'l ne demandait pour 
prix de ses conquetes que la pacification de 1'Europe." 

10 For the policy of a friendly understanding with the maritime 
powers and Austria. In his instructions of Dec. 11, 1737, to the 
Marquis de Mirepoix, Fleury suggests definitely a rapprochement 
between the Houses of Bourbon and Hapsburg, Recueil d99 
Instructions, I. 245-6. 


defense were ill-advised. "Our neighbors have 
everything to fear from us we nothing from 
them." The only alliances which France should 
form should be "for the purpose of repressing the 
ambitious," and should be made only with lesser 
states, "such as Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, 
Holland, Venice, Modena, Switzerland, Bavaria, 
Prussia, Saxony, etc." In brief, France was in 
the position to give the law to Europe, so it be a 
just law. Let her, then, "sustain the feeble and 
oppressed" and in her part as "paternal protec- 
tor," "arrest disorders for many centuries." 11 In 
1748 France, by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 
restored her conquests of the war just closed. 
Sinful Paris pronounced it "a beastly peace." 
The royal ministers, on the other hand, contrast- 
ing His Most Christian Majesty with those rulers 
who were forced by necessity to seek only their 
own aggrandizement and were ever masking sel- 
fish designs with a pretended solicitude for the 
balance of power, defended the treaty as marking 
precisely France's station and magnanimity. 12 

u Journal et Memoires du Marquis d' Argenson (ed. Ratheray, 
Pairs, 1859), I. 325-6; 371-2; IV. 131 ff. See also Saint-Beuve, 
"Argenson," Causeries du Lundi. The idealistic, not to say senti- 
mental, character of Argenson's point of view is illustrated by his 
"maxim," "le roi aime mieux 6tre trompd que de tromper." 

11 For the Parisian estimate of the Peace, see Lavisse et Ram- 
baud, op. cit., VII. 204. Argenson testifies to the popular criticism 
evoked by the Peace, thus: "Le Francais aime la gloire et Phon- 
neur, de sorte qu'apres les premiers moments de joie de la paix 
conclue, tout le public est tomb dans la consternation de la 


And thus much for the successful aspect of 
Fleury's System: it gave France for the time 
being the preponderance in Europe and it accus- 
tomed her statesmen to claim for her in relation 
to the minor states of the Continent in general 
the role which the Treaty of Westphalia had con- 
ferred upon her in terms, in relation to the lesser 
members of the Germanic Body. 13 Unfortun- 
ately the System had its Achilles' heel, its indif- 
ference to the decline of French sea-power and to 
the rise of English sea-power. The earliest pro- 
test against an attitude so obviously defiant of 
the tenets of Mercantilism came from Fleury's 
own associate, the young Count de Maurapas, 
who between 1730 and 1740 headed the Depart- 
ment of the Marine. Now in an official report on 
the state of the marine, now in a letter purporting 
to emanate from the shade of Louis XIV, now in 
a memoir on the condition of French commerce 
abroad, Maurepas reiterated again and again the 
favorite premises of his school and their obvious 
deductions for France: Commerce that kept 
gold at home and drew it from abroad was a 
source of public greatness. Foreign trade was 
the essential root of naval strength. Against 

m6diocrite des conditions." For the ministerial viewpoint, see 
Recueil des Instructions, I. 286 ff., 319 ff. On the preeminence of 
Louis' position in Europe after Aix-la-Chapelle, see Wraxall, His- 
torical Memoirs (Phila., 1845), 55. 

18 On France's guaranteeship of the Treaty of Westphalia, see 
Recueil des Instructions, I. 208. 


no two states in the world could France so profit- 
ably turn her arms as against Holland and Eng- 
land. The latter moreover was an active menace 
to Bourbon interests in all parts of the world. It 
behooved His Most Christian Majesty "to put to 
flight this usurping race" and to curtail the com- 
merce which already rendered "these ancient 
enemies of his crown almost the masters of the 
fate of Europe." 14 It is not impertinent to recall 
that at the outbreak of the American Revolution 
the author of these words was His Most Christian 
Majesty's chief -minister. 

The warning thus sounded was soon reechoed 
by others. In a council of ministers shortly be- 
fore France's entrance into the War of the Aus- 
trian Succession, the Duke de Noailles opposed 
this step with vigor and insight. England's sys- 
tem, said he, is obvious. "It is to arrive at su- 
preme power by superiority of wealth, and 
America alone can make smooth the road for 
her." It could be predicted at the outset that His 
Britannic Majesty would not waste his substance 
in Germany, but would seize the opportunity af- 
forded by a war on the Continent to wage war 
for his own purposes in America. France's real 
concern should be for her colonies, and only mo- 
tives of vainglory could distract her attention to 
the Empire. 15 Two years later Deslandes' Essai 

"Maurepas, Memoires (ed. Soulavie, Paris, 1792), III. 93 ff., 
161 ff., 194 ff., especially 205-6 and 241. 
tt Anquetil, Motifs des Ouerres, p. 376. 


sur la Marine et le Commerce appeared, ad- 
dressed to "those at the Helm." In these pages 
one will find proclaimed the theory to be made 
familiar to us a hundred and fifty years later 
through Admiral Mahan's famous work, that 
from the beginning of history the marine has 
been a decisive factor in the rise and fall of states. 
And particularly, Deslandes went on to argue, 
had the greatness of France always rested on a 
strong navy. The restoration of the marine was 
therefore the first duty of French statesmen. Its 
neglect could lead only to calamity. 16 

The mercantilist propaganda, aptly confirmed 
as it was by the events of the War of the Aus- 
trian Succession, began in time to show promise 
of fruition. Even Argenson, despite his general 
complacency, yet gave warning that English am- 
bition, fraud, and aggressiveness in the way of 
trade, and the prosperity of the English colonies, 
menaced Europe with the prospect of British 
dominion "of the seas and of all the commerce in 
the world." 17 Saint-Contest, who became secre- 
tary of state for Foreign Affairs in 1751, was of 
like opinion, holding that, on account of her naval 
strength, England even then exerted a greater 
influence in European concerns than France. At 

"Op. cit., passim. See also the same writer, Essai sur la 
Marine des Ancient et particulierement sur I furs Vaisseaux de 
Guerre (Paris, 1748). Curiously enough Admiral Mahan does not 
seem to be aware of Deslandes* works. 

" Journal et Memoires, I. 372. 


the same time, he contended that naval strength 
was a highly vulnerable sort of strength, and that 
with prudent measures, it would be easy for 
France to reduce Great Britain to her proper 
rank. 18 Meantime, in 1749, Rouille had become 
minister of the Marine. Under his administra- 
tion and that of his successor Machault the navy 
was brought to comparative efficiency, as was at- 
tested by the capture of Minorca in June, 1756. 

Unfortunately the Seven Years War, thus 
auspiciously begun for France, was not long to 
remain predominantly a war with England, to 
be waged on the sea for commerce and colonies. 
The simple fact is that with the haute noblesse 
the army was popular and the navy, for all the 
zeal of the mercantilists, was not. The preju- 
dices of the nobles moreover fell in with the pique 
of the king at what he considered the ingratitude 
and faithlessness of his protege, the king of Prus- 
sia, in making a defensive alliance with England. 
In vain was it urged upon Louis that the Treaty 
of Westminster, far from implying hostility on 
Frederick's part toward His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty, was really a matter for thanksgiving, in 
that it guaranteed peace on the Continent and, 
by the same sign, a free hand for France in India 
and America. By the first Treaty of Versailles, 
of May 1st, 1756, the famous Diplomatic Revolu- 

"Flassan, op. cit., VI. 14-16; Recueil de Instruction* XII. 8 
(Espagne, pt. II), 298 flf. 


tion was effected by a defensive alliance between 
France and Austria. . Even so, the general opin- 
ion at first was that this arrangement also was 
calculated to conserve the peace of Europe. On 
August 29th, 1756, however, Frederick invaded 
Saxony and the war thus precipitated speedily 
became general. By the second Treaty of Ver- 
sailles, May 1st, 1757, the resources of France 
were placed at the disposal of the House of 
Austria. 19 

The fortunes of the ensuing war it is, of course, 
unnecessary for us to follow further than to note 
that for France they were misfortunes. These 
were the days when Mme. du Deffand rechris- 
tened France "Madam Job." Cardinal Bernis, 
minister of Foreign Affairs and so official sponsor 
for the Austrian alliance, was soon in the depths. 
"Everything is going to pieces," he wrote. "No 
sooner does one succeed in propping the building 
at one corner than it crumbles at another." 
France "touches the very last period of decay." 
She "has neither generals nor ministers." "Ah 
that God would send us a directing will or some 
one who had one! I would be his valet if he 
wished it, and gladly!" 20 

"Lavisse et Rambaud, op. cit., VII. 217-20; Richard Wadding- 
ton, Louis XV et le Renversement des Alliances (Paris, 1896), 
249-62, 358-517. 

"Lavisse et Rambaud, op. cii., VII. 244-5; Richard Wadding- 
ton, La Guerre de Sept Ans, II. 432-3; Sainte-Beuve, "Bernis," 
Causeries du Lundi. 


In Choiseul, who succeeded Bernis in Novem- 
ber, 1758, the directing will was found and the 
mercantilist point of view again assured utter- 
ance in the royal council. It is true that Choi- 
seul's first official act was to renew with the 
empress the onerous engagements of his prede- 
cessor, but to this he was fairly committed by the 
circumstances in which he had taken office. 21 
Presently we find him declaring to the Austrian 
court with entire candor that the war with Eng- 
land involved French power and honor more di- 
rectly than did the struggle on the Continent. 
Indeed, he proceeded, the interest of Austria her- 
self demanded the preservation of France's sea- 
power. For "this it is," said he, "which enables 
His Majesty to sustain numerous armies for the 
defence of his allies, as it is the maritime power of 
England which today arms so many enemies 
against them and against France." 22 And the 
same point of view again found expression in his 
despatch of March 21st, 1759, to Havrincourt, 
the king's ambassador at Stockholm: 

We must not deceive ourselves. The true balance of 
power really resides in commerce and in America. The 
war in Germany, even though it should be waged with 
better success than at present, will not prevent the evils 
that are to be feared from the great superiority of the 
English on the sea. The king will take up arms in vain. 

"Waddington, op. cit., II. ch. VIII. and III. 452-4. 
28 "Instructions to the Count de Choiseul," June 1759, Recueil 
des Instructions, I. 386. 


For if he does not have a care, he will see his allies forced 
to become, not the paid auxiliaries of England, but her 
tributaries, and France will need many a Richelieu and 
Colbert to recover, in the face of her enemies, the 
equality which she is in peril of losing. 23 

In October came the news of the fall of Quebec. 
"The balance of power," wrote Choiseul to Ossun, 
the king's ambassador at Madrid, "is destroyed 
in America, and we shall presently possess there 
only Santo Domingo. France, in the actual pos- 
ture of affairs, cannot be regarded as a commer- 
cial power, which is to say that she cannot be 
regarded as a power of the first order." 24 

Choiseul now set himself the task, failing a 
peace with England on reasonable terms, of re- 
storing to the war its original character of a con- 
test with that power for commerce, colonies, and 
naval supremacy. Auspiciously for his purpose, 
Don Carlos, a much better Bourbon than Ferdi- 
nand VI had ever been, was now Charles III of 
Spain. In the negotiations during the summer of 
1761 between France and England Choiseul 
seized the opportunity of championing certain 
claims of Spain against His Britannic Majesty, 
which however were rejected by Pitt in terms that 
aroused not only Charles' indignation but posi- 
tive apprehensions for his own colonial empire. 


Flassan, op. cit., VI. 160. 

76., 279. 

Waddington, op. cit., III. 427-42, and IV, 428-37, 555-72. See 


The result was that on August 15th, 1761, the sec- 
ond Family Compact, making France and Spain 
practically one power for all warlike purposes, 
was signed at Paris. 

The intention [runs the preamble of this document] 
of His Most Christian Majesty and of His Catholic 
Majesty, in contracting the engagements which they as- 
sume by this treaty, is to perpetuate in their descen- 
dants the sentiments of Louis XIV of glorious memory, 
their common august ancestor, and to establish forever 
a solemn monument of reciprocal interest which should 
be the basis of the desires of their courts and of the 
prosperity of their royal families. 

The treaty itself announced its basic principle 
to be that, "whoever attacked one crown, attacked 
the other." Thus, when at war against the same 
enemy, both crowns were to act in concert. When 
either was at war, offensively or defensively, it 
was to call upon the other for certain forces 
Spain upon France for 18,000 infantry, 6,000 
cavalry, 20 ships of the line, and 6 frigates; 
France upon Spain, for the same naval forces, 
10,000 infantry, and 2,000 cavalry. The Bour- 
bon holdings in Italy were guaranteed absolutely. 

also Recueil des Instructions, XII. 3 338. Of further interest is Al- 
fred Bourget's "Le Due de Choiseul et 1'Angleterre: la Mission 
de M. de Bussy," Revue historique, LXXI. 1-32. In a letter dated 
Aug. 25, 1761, Bussy, who was then acting as Choiseul's special 
envoy to England, wrote: "M. Pitt parait n'avoir d'autre ambi- 
tion que celle d'elever sa nation au plus haut point de la gloire 
et d'abaisser la France au plus bas degr6 de 1'humiliation," 
ib. 12. 


On the other hand, Spain was excused from as- 
sisting France in the guaranty of the Peace of 
Westphalia unless a maritime power should 
take arms against the latter. Each power ex- 
tended to the subjects of the other the commercial 
privileges of its own subjects in its European 
dominions. 26 

The renewal of the Family Compact was 
Choiseurs greatest achievement and is to be re- 
garded as the starting point of the restoration of 
France's position in Europe; notwithstanding 
which, at the outset, it brought only fresh calami- 
ties and new losses. In October Pitt fell from 
power for urging a declaration of war upon 
Spain. None the less, the declaration followed 
in January. The English and provincial forces 
now turned from the capture of France's West 
Indian islands to that of Havana, which fell in 
July. But Choiseul, his eyes fixed on remoter 
developments, was determined that Spain should 
not suffer for her devotion to the Bourbon 
cause. On November 3rd, 1762, France agreed to 
give Spain New Orleans and all of Louisiana 
west of the Mississippi, an arrangement which 
permitted the latter to exchange the Floridas for 
Havana. The ensuing February 10th the Peace 
of Paris was signed. By it France ceded England 

*G. F. de Martens, Recueil de Trails ... des Puissance* et 
Etats de I'Europe depute 1761 jusqu? & pretent (Gottingen, 1871), 
I. 16-28. 


the vast part territorially of what was still left of 
her colonies. Of the great empire that had once 
comprised half of North America and the richest 
of the American islands, and that had given fair 
promise to include eventually India and the West 
African coast, she retained Goree on the African 
coast; Santo Domingo, which thanks to the Eng- 
lish diversion against Havana, her forces still held ; 
Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Santa Lucia, 
and their dependencies ; the small fishing islands 
St. Pierre and Miquelon, off Newfoundland; and 
a few factories in India, together with the islands 
of France and Bourbon, which she must not for- 
tify, as also she must not the fishing stations. 27 
Nevertheless, we must be on our guard against 
exaggerating the merely material aspect of the 
losses wrought France by the Seven Years War. 
On the map, no doubt, Canada and Louisiana 
comprised an impressive domain, but regarded 
from the point of view of commerce and trade- 
balances they were essentially worthless, Louisi- 
ana being practically uninhabited and Canada 
hardly returning the cost of administration. On 
the other hand Guadeloupe and Martinique, in 
place of which England had finally and somewhat 
reluctantly consented to take Canada, were com- 
mercially of great value. 28 France's real loss, 
apart from the enormous outlay of the war, was 

Ib., 104-20; Lavisse et Rambaud, op. cit., VII. 256-7. 
M On these points, see Flassan, op. cit., VI. 480 if. 


in prestige. Her armies had been defeated, her 
fleets annihilated, her allies disappointed and dis- 
gruntled. The Treaty of Peace itself signalized 
her humiliation most graphically by renewing 
the defunct provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht 
against the fortification of Dunkirk, to which was 
later added provision for an English commis- 
sioner at that port, "without whose consent not a 
pier could be erected, not a stone turned." And 
not less ominous was the sort of demand that now 
began being made by His Britannic Majesty's 
diplomatic representatives at various courts, 
that in view of the outcome of the war they were 
entitled to the precedence over His Most Chris- 
tian Majesty's representatives. French pride 
could not possibly have been flouted more 
shrewdly. 29 

How, then, was France to recover her prestige 
and the influence that this assured her upon Con- 
tinental affairs? This was the question that ad- 
dressed itself, and in terms ever more poignant, 
to the guardians of her diplomacy in the period 
between the Treaty of Paris and the death of 
Louis XV. And the answer returned to this 
question by all schools of opinion on questions 
diplomatic carried with them the implication at 
least that, before France could hope to regain her 
station in Europe, English power must be dimin- 
ished. The story however is one that should be 

/6., VI. 183-7; VII. 26-7. 


told in more detail, and in connection with it I 
desire to draw particular attention to two highly 
important documents: Choiseul's Memoire of 
February, 1765, which comprises a general de- 
fense of his policy, 30 and Broglie's Conjectures 
Raisonnees of 1773, which voices the views at 
that date of an adherent of the more narrowly 
Continental viewpoint. 31 

Choiseul begins his exposition of the fundamen- 
tals of French diplomacy by tracing the calami- 
ties of the late war to one cause : the fact that the 
Austrian alliance was allowed to convert "the war 
on seas and in America, which was the true war," 
to a purely land war. Also it is admitted that the 
Austrian connection was always bound to be a 
precarious one. Nevertheless, it is insisted, it was 
of value as tending to conserve the peace on the 
Continent, for which reason it should be continued 
so long as it exacted no further material sacrifices 
by France. And the historical connections with 
the princes of the Empire should be viewed in the 
same light. The old policy of paying subsidies 
in advance should be discontinued. The English 
system was to pay for services rendered and this 

88 Soulange-Bodin, La Diplomatie de Louis XV et le Pacte d* 
Famille (Paris, 1894), 236-53. 

M "Conjectures Raisonnees sur la Situation actuelle de la France 
dans le Systeme politique," etc.: "Oeuvre dirige" par de Broglie et 
execute par M. Favier": dated Apr. 16, 1773, and comprising vol. 
I. p. 211 to the end, all of vol. II, and vol. III. to p. 104 of Se"gur's 
Politique de tous les Cabinets, (1801). Cited hereafter as "Se"gur." 


had proved much more effectual. But the one 
indispensable alliance^ of His Most Christian 
Majesty was with His Catholic Majesty. The 
foremost precept of His Majesty's policy hence- 
forth must be, accordingly, "to manage with the 
most scrupulous attention his system of alliance 
with Spain, to regard the Spanish power as a 
power necessary to France." Nor would this be 
difficult, for the king of Spain was "just, firm, and 
one upon whom you can count even beyond the 
point at which France herself would fail you." 
The Memoir e concludes thus : 

It remains for me to speak to Your Majesty of the 
maritime powers. England is the declared enemy of 
your power and of your state, and she will be so always. 
Many ages must elapse before a durable peace can be 
established with this state, which looks forward to the 
supremacy in the four quarters of the globe. Only the 
revolution which will occur some day in America, though 
we shall probably not see it, will put England back to 
that state of weakness in which Europe will have no 
more to fear of her. 

Thus the Memoire closed on something like a 
note of despair. Despair, however, was not 
Choiseurs normal attitude. Even a year before 
this he had sent an agent named Pontleroy to 
British North America to report upon its re- 
sources and the strength of the lines connecting 
it with the mother-country, 32 and now in 1766, 

82 C. De Witt, Thomas Jefferson, Etude historique sur la D6 


with the news of the American outbreak against 
the Stamp Act at hand, the results of Pontleroy's 
investigation and their significance for France be- 
came the subject of active correspondence be- 
tween Choiseul and His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty's representatives at the Court of St. James. 

Judging from the small number of arrangements 
with reference to colonial possessions in America [Du- 
rand wrote Choiseul in August, 1767] Europe has only 
lately begun to sense their importance. England herself 
has discovered with surprise that they are the sources 
of the power which she enjoys and that these great 
objects of power and ambition draw in their wake the 
balance of power in Europe. In brief, money has be- 
come so necessary to the sustenance of a government 
that without commerce no state has the wherewithal to 
uphold its dignity and independence; and commerce 
would dry up if it were not sustained by that branch of 
it which traffics in the products of America. It is there 
that England finds the outlet for her manufactures, and 
to what dimensions would these be reduced if they sup- 
plied only the market of Europe at a time when every 
nation is endeavoring to make its own resources suffice 
and to prevent the departure of specie from its 
territory ? 33 

This, of course, is all in the best strain of the 
most rigorous Mercantilism. Nevertheless, pro- 

mocratie amtricaine (3rd ed., Paris, 1861), 40T. Most of the 
citations to this work are to the documents in the Appendices, 
pp. 393-559. See also F. Kapp, Life of Kalb (N. Y., 1870), 43-4. 

83 De Witt, op. tit., I. 420-1. See also to same effect pp. 427-8. 
Choiseul's viewpoint was precisely the same: ib., 47-51. 


fessing to fear the American colonies more than 
England herself, Durand advised against foment- 
ing revolution among them, since to do so "might 
have the result of handing over the other colonies 
of Europe to those who by their excessive energy 
and strength had detached themselves from the 
parent stem." 34 Durand's successor Chatelet, on 
the other hand, was strongly of the opinion that 
France ought to seize the first opportunity of 
intervening in America. 

In the case of a rupture [he inquired of Choiseul early 
in December, 1767] even were it an open and premature 
one, between the colonies and Great Britain, could 
France and Spain remain idle spectators of an oppor- 
tunity which in probability would never occur again? 
. . . Before six months have elapsed America will be 
on fire at every point. The question then is whether 
the colonists have the means of feeding it without the 
aid of a foreign war, and whether France and Spain 
should run the risk of taking an active part in foment- 
ing the conflict and making it inextinguishable, or 
whether it would be more their policy to leave it to 
itself at the risk of its going out for want of fuel and the 
means of spreading. 35 

As a matter of fact Choiseul had already taken 
a definite step toward interesting his government 
in the American situation. On April 22nd, 1767, 

**/6 v 52. See also, to some effect, pp. 432-3. 

86 Ib., 56-7 footnote. Choiseul regarded these views as "pro- 
found": ib. For further correspondence to the same effect, see 
ib., 433-55. 


he had despatched Kalb, who was later to distin- 
guish himself as a major-general in Washington's 
army, to Amsterdam, there to inquire into "the 
rumors in circulation about the English colonies" 
and, should these be well founded, to "make prep- 
arations for a journey to America/* In con- 
formity with these and further instructions, Kalb 
finally sailed for America from Gravesend, on Oc- 
tober 4th, and arrived in Philadelphia January 
2nd. 36 In essence, the conclusions he drew from 
his inquiries into the American situation were, 
that the moment had not yet arrived for France 
to embroil herself with her neighbors; that while 
the remoteness of the American population from 
their central government made them "free and 
enterprising," at bottom they were "but little in- 
clined to shake off the English supremacy with 
the aid of foreign powers"; that "such an alliance 
would appear to them to be fraught with danger 
to their liberties" ; that "a war with us would only 
hasten their reconciliation," so that "on the foot- 
ing of restored privileges, the English court could 
even direct all the troops, resources, and ships of 
this part of the world against our islands and the 
Spanish Main." 37 

There can be little doubt that these observa- 
tions, in the general assessment they made of 
American sentiment, squared with the facts, but 

M F. Kapp, Life of Kalb, cited above, 45-51. 
* Ib., 53-7 passim. 


that was small consolation to Choiseul, who in his 
disappointment petulantly charged Kalb with 
superficiality and pronounced his labors useless. 38 
The result however was that now, abandoning 
any idea of actually interfering in America, the 
French minister began to formulate a plan 
whereby France and Spain should indirectly fos- 
ter discontent in the English colonies by throwing 
open the ports of their own colonies to the prod- 
ucts of North America. 39 This was on the basis 
of the theory, that while the English colonies aug- 
mented the strength of England, those of France 
weakened her. "The thing to be aimed at," there- 
fore, in the words of M. Abeille, Choiseul's sec- 
retary-general of Commerce, was "to diminish the 
artificial strength of England and to relieve 
France of the burdens that obstruct the develop- 
ment of her native strength." 40 Indeed M. 
Abeille was for granting the French colonies their 
independence. But these views naturally en- 
countered some opposition at Madrid; and in 
1770 Choiseul fell from power. 

88 Ib., 71. At this very time Franklin was writing, with refer- 
ence to Choiseul's policy: "That intriguing nation would like 
very well to blow up the coals between Britain and her colonies, 
but I hope we shall give them no opportunity," Bancroft, III. 261. 
As late as Apr. 6, 1773, Franklin predicted that a war with 
France and Spain on the part of England would heal the breach 
with the colonies, Complete Works (Ed. Bigelow), V. 126. 

" De Witt, op. cit., 60-3. 


Two years later occurred the first partition of 
Poland, all things considered, the most humiliat- 
ing episode from the French point of view in the 
history of French diplomacy. Poland had been 
for centuries, with a fair degree of constancy, the 
ally and protege of France. Since 1745, moreover, 
Louis himself had been endeavoring, through the 
subterranean channels of the Secret du Roi, 
which indeed he had created for the purpose, to 
secure the succession of the House of Conti to 
the Polish throne. 41 The project of the royal 
brigands, however, was never known to His Most 
Christian Majesty's agents till it was fait accom- 
pli, and thus the most important transfer of terri- 
tory since the Peace of Westphalia, involving 
ultimately the extinction of the greatest state 
territorially in western Europe, was effected not 
only without the consent but without the knowl- 
edge of France. But worst of all, France's own 
ally Austria was particeps criminis to the act, 
even though a reluctant one at first. "She wept 
but she took," was the adequate account that 
Frederick gave of the empress' part in the trans- 
action. Her course published to the world at 
large in a way that tears more copious and more 
sincere than hers could not obliterate, that the 
desires of France no longer greatly counted in 
Europe. 42 

41 Lavisse et Rambaud, op. cit., VII. 212-14. 
o/b. 503-11. 


"The Tragedy of the North" it was that incited 
Broglie, the principal agent of the Secret du Roi, 
to the composition, in collaboration with the ver- 
satile Favier, of his elaborate Conjectures Red- 
sonnees, referred to above. "One would wish in 
vain," this document begins, "to conceal the rapid 
degradation of the credit of France in the courts 
of Europe, not only in consideration but even in 
dignity. From the primacy among great powers 
she has been forced to descend to a passive role 
or that of an inferior." 43 Putting then the ques- 
tion as to the cause of this unhappy transfor- 
mation, Broglie first assailed "the change of sys- 
tem produced by the Treaty of Versailles." 44 The 
preponderance in Europe was the rightful pat- 
rimony of the French crown: this was a dogma 
consecrated by a thousand years. 45 But the 
Treaty of Versailles had accustomed Europe "to 
regard France as ... subject to orders from 
Austria." To the same cause was it due that 
France had abandoned her ancient allies Sweden, 
Poland, Turkey, and the German princes; and 
worse still, that she had made to fill the role of 
dupe in the recent developments in Poland and 
Turkey, the result of which was her own reduc- 
tion to the fourth grade of powers. 46 The Family 

"S6gur, I. 212. 

44 76., 212-13. 

**/&., 229. 

*/&., 213, 258-64, 303-4; II. 33-4, 64, 88-92. 


Compact of 1762, too, had had the worst possible 
effect upon European opinion, since by it Spain 
was admitted to virtual equality with France. 
"France for the first time admitted the equality 
of another power." 47 

Thus far spoke the critic and rival of Choiseul. 
The longest section of the Conjectures however 
deals with England and the tone here is signifi- 
cantly harmonious with that of Choiseul's Me- 
moire. The attitude of England toward France 
was that of ancient Rome toward Carthage. 
England of course did not expect to wipe out the 
French monarchy ; her inferiority on land forbade 
the idea. But she had adopted the principle of 
keeping the French marine reduced, "of watching 
our ports, of surveying our dockyards and arsen- 
als, of spoiling our projects, our preparations, our 
least movements." Her policy in this respect was 
to be explained in part by that spirit of rapine 
native to the English people, but also in part by 
the knowledge of the English ministers that the 
edifice of English power was still supported by 
factitious resources and forced means and that 
its natural tendency, in face of the approaching 
danger of a schism between the mother-country 
and her colonies, would be to crumble and dis- 
solve. In short, it was fear that determined Eng- 
land's policy toward France, though a fear that 
knew how to choose its weapons. In view of this 

/&., I. 229-30. 


fact, France should know her real strength, 
should know that her. industry, resources, patriot- 
ism, and intelligence were sufficient to overturn 
"the colossus of English power," could she once 
restore her marine. She should know too that 
the feeble line of conduct taken with England in 
the immediate past had but nourished English 
pride and disdain and that what was needed was 
a firm line of conduct. France's military system 
and her diplomatic policy must alike sustain the 
dignity and preeminence of the crown of France 
on sea as well as on land. 48 

The influence of the Conjectures Raisonnees 
upon those who were interested in France's diplo- 
matic position is beyond all question, and the 
same is true of Abbe Raynal's contemporaneous 
Histoire des Indes. 49 "The marine," declared 
this writer, "is a new kind of power which has 
given, in some sort, the universe to Europe. This 
part of the globe, which is so limited, as ac- 
quired, by means of its fleet, an unlimited empire 
over the rest, so extended." Yet the benefit of 
this control had passed, in effect, to one nation 
alone, England, and with it had passed the bal- 
ance of power. Such had not always been the 
case. In the days of Louis XIV France had 

48 76., II. 165-97. 

* Sorel, op. tit., I. 304-10. "La doctrine de Favier se ramene a 
une proposition essentielle: 1'anlantissement de PAngleterre," ib., 


given the law to Europe, and the basis of her 
greatness had been in her marine. Unfortu- 
nately, the excesses of that monarch, while 
cementing the alliance of the maritime states 
against France, had also turned the martial ener- 
gies of the latter from the fleet to the army; and 
so French power had been doubly undermined. 50 
The connection between England's greatness as 
a colonial power and her influence among the 
states of the world and the memory of France's 
greatness under Louis XIV are constantly re- 
iterated thoughts in Raynal's pages, and the 
course to which they incited French sentiment, 
both official and unofficial,* is plain. "Favier," 
writes Sorel, "made disciples and Raynal 
proselytes." 51 

France's intervention in the American Revolu- 
tion is often described as an act of Revenge. The 
description is less erroneous than incomplete, for 
while it calls to mind the fact that France had 
humiliations to be redressed, it fails to indicate 
the even more important fact that she had also 
a role to be retrieved. Furthermore, it leaves en- 
tirely out of account the logic by which, in an 
Age of Reason, the purpose of either revenge or 
restoration was brought into relation with a con- 
crete situation. This logic comprised the follow- 

"Histoire des Indes (Paris edition of 1781), V. 203; VII. 208 ff.; 
IX. 88 ff., 219 ff.; and especially, X. 136 ff. 
"Sorel, op. tit., I. 309. 


ing ideas: That France was entitled by her 
wealth, power, and history, to the preponderating 
influence in Continental affairs ; that she had lost 
this position of influence largely on account of 
Great Britain's intermeddling; that Great Bri- 
tain had been enabled to mingle in Continental 
concerns by virtue of her great naval strength, 
her commercial prosperity, and her preparedness 
to maintain Continental subsidiaries; that these 
in turn were due in great part to her American 
colonial empire and especially to the policies con- 
trolling her trade therewith; that America, be- 
come independent, would be an almost total loss 
from the point of view of British interests ; that 
this loss would mean a corresponding diminution 
of British power; that since the two were rivals, 
whatever abased the power of Great Britain 
would elevate the power of France. By calling 
into existence the New World, France would 
"redress the balance of the Old." 

But while these ideas define the principal ad- 
vantage which France hoped to obtain from the 
course she took, there were also supporting ideas 
that should not be lost to view. For one thing, 
it was by no means impossible that whether she 
intervened or not in behalf of the American 
rebels, France would find herself, sooner or later, 
at war with Great Britain in defense of the 
French West Indies. Again, it had for centuries 
been France's role to back the smaller fry against 


her greater rivals. Again, it was generally felt 
that, formidable as it was at the moment, British 
power was in reality more or less spurious. Fur- 
thermore, recent diplomatic developments had 
most miraculously paved the way for French in- 
tervention in North America. The withdrawal of 
France from Canada had left America no reason 
to fear her; the Family Compact convenanted the 
assistance of the Spanish marine; the Austrian 
alliance constituted a reasonable guaranty of 
peace on the Continent. Finally, it was felt to 
be not only allowable but right for France to seize 
so favorable an opportunity to tear down a 
power that had been used so outrageously as Eng- 
land had used her power on the sea. In the end, 
the project did not lack some of the aspects of a 

The primary requisite, however, to an under- 
standing of Louis XVTs espousal of the cause 
of American independence is that due weight be 
given the fact that Europe was still organized on 
the dynastic principle, and to the further fact, 
especially noteworthy in the case of the elder 
branch of the House of Bourbon, that position 
and influence were the essential objectives of di- 
plomacy, even in the age of "Benevolent Mon- 
archy." 52 To-day with the voice of the common 

M Indeed among a people so fond of glory as the French the very 
security of the crown demanded that the dishonor it had suffered 
abroad in the detested latter years of Louis XV should be wiped 


man dominant in the direction of society, histori- 
cal investigators are. apt to give too slighting 
attention to all but bread-and-butter interests as 
interpretative of the conduct of states. But this 
is plain anachronism. The doctrine of the equal- 
away as speedily as possible. "Or la France, passionate comme 
elle tait pour la gloire, et qui aurait excus bien les fautes du 
gouvernement inte>ieur, ne pardonna pas au Roi . . . son humilia- 
tion." Lavisse, Histoire de France, VIII. 8 411. It is interesting to 
note that as early as November, 1775, Burke had predicted French 
intervention. "He observed, that from being the first, she was, 
with regard to effective military power, only the fifth state in 
Europe. That she was fallen below her former rank solely from 
the advantages we had obtained over her; and that if she could 
humble us, she would certainly recover her situation." Part. Hist., 
XVIII. 967. Eighteen months before this Col. Barr6 in the debate 
in Commons on the "Bill for Regulating the Government of 
Massachusett's Bay," had declared that "during these troubles 
with our colonies, France would not lie quiet," ib., XVII. 1307. 
A hint of foreign interference is conveyed in Franklin's "Rules 
by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One," 
Works (Ed. Sparks), IV. 396. In a sermon delivered June 6, 
1774, in the Second Church of Boston, the Rev. John Lathrop 
declared, "France and Spain will take satisfaction for their 
losses in the late War," Pennsylvania Packet, No. 147. In his 
"Farmer Refuted," which was published in Feb., 1775, Hamilton 
put the question whether "the ancient rivals and enemies of Great 
Britain would be idle," in the event of an open breach between 
Great Britain and her colonies; and answered, that ere this could 
come about, "the French, from being a jealous, politic, and 
enterprising people, must be grown negligent, stupid, and inat- 
tentive to their own interest. They could never have a fairer 
opportunity or a greater temptation to aggrandize themselves 
and triumph over Great Britain than would here be presented." 
Works (Constitutional Ed.), I. 164-5. A year later John Adams 
raised the same question on the floor of Congress (Mar. 1, 1776). 
"Is it," he inquired, "the interest of France to stand neuter, to 


ity of man was indeed a tenet of the schools in 
1776, but it had made little headway among the 
professional diplomatists, who still assessed the 
general welfare in terms furnished by the compe- 
tition for station of rival reigning houses. 53 

join with Britain, or to join with the colonies? Is it not her 
interest to dismember the British empire? Will her dominions be 
safe if Britain and America remain connected? Can she preserve 
her possessions in the West Indies? ... In case a reconciliation 
should take place between Britain and America, and a war 
should break out between Britain and France would not all her 
islands be taken from her in six months?" Life and Works, II. 
487-8. There was, of course, a strong possibility, even probability, 
of such a reconciliation at this date. For this and other reasons 
the danger to France cited by Adams was much more real than 
after Saratoga. See infra. Adams, at this date, wished only a 
"commercial" connection with France, and declared flatly against 
a "political' or "military" connection. "Receive no troops from 
her," he advised, ib. For some further items on American expec- 
tation of French aid because of the rivalry between France and 
England, see the Continental Journal and Weekly Advertiser 
of Boston, issues of July 11, 18, and 25, and Oct. 17, 1776. 
53 See further the document given in Appendix U. 



Louis XVI ascended the throne in May, 1774, 
and was at once confronted with the task of choos- 
ing a ministry. The queen, anxious to see the 
policy of friendship with Austria continued, 
urged that Choiseul be again called to power. 
The dull and priggish Louis, however, abhorred 
both the aggressive talents and tawdry morals of 
the former minister, and his scruples carried the 
day. When the new cabinet was formed in the 
course of June and July the post of chief -minister 
was assigned to the old and decrepit Count de 
Maurepas, while that of secretary of state for 
Foreign Affairs was bestowed upon the Count 
de Vergennes. 1 

Charles Gravier, later the Count de Vergennes, 
was born at Dijon, in 1717, of one of those fami- 
lies of the lesser noblesse whose function it was, 
under the Old Regime, to replenish the ranks of 
French officialdom. He began his diplomatic 
career in 1740 by accompanying his uncle Cha- 
vigny to the latter's post as ambassador at Libson. 

1 Lavisse, Histoire de France, IX. 1 5, 6. 


Six years later he won the praise of Argenson by 
the clarity of his views on questions then at issue 
between Portugal and Spain. In 1750 he became 
minister plenipotentiary at Treves, and a little 
later His Most Christian Majesty's representa- 
tive at the Congress of Hanover, where he is said 
to have shown great dexterity in foiling the de- 
signs of George H's representative, the Duke of 
Newcastle. This and other successes brought him 
four years later the great post of ambassador to 
Constantinople, where for fourteen years he rep- 
resented both the official diplomacy and the Secret 
du Roi. Then followed a short term of retire- 
ment on account of an altercation with Choiseul. 
But in 1771, at the instance of Aiguillon, he be- 
came the king's ambassador at Stockholm; and 
here the year following he successfully engi- 
neered a coup d'etat, which by transferring the 
governing power in Sweden from the antiquated 
and corrupt estates to the king, saved that coun- 
try from the fate which had just overtaken 
Poland and was even then overshadowing 
Turkey. 2 

2 La Grande Encyclopedic, title "Vergennes"; Magazine of Amer- 
ican History, XIII. 31 ff.; Flassan, op. tit., VI. 12-13, 234-58; 
Arthur Hassall, The Balance of Power (N. Y., 1898), passim; 
Le Bonneville de Marsangy, Le Chevalier de Vergennes, son Am- 
bassade a Constantinople (2 Vols.; Paris, 1894); H. Doniol, "Le 
Ministere des Affaires etrangeres de France sous le Comte de 
Vergennes," Revue d'Histoire diplomatique, VII. 528-60 (1893). 
This reference is chiefly valuable for the extracts it contains from 
the "Souvenirs" of Vergennes' friend Hennin, written at the time 


Compared with the brilliant Choiseul, the new 
secretary is a somewhat prosaic figure, an impres- 
sion which Carlyle has recorded in the dictum that 
"M. de Vergennes was a clerk, a mere clerk 
with his feet under the table." The fact is that, 
to a taste for methodical employment, and to the 
minute knowledge of the diplomatic systems of 
Europe that stirred the admiration of Segur, 
Vergennes added an ambition for patriotic 
achievement that was none the less real because 
it was controlled by the prudence of a man who 
had risen to station by his own efforts. Nor 
is the traditional Vergennes less remote from fact, 
the Vergennes who is pictured to us as "a difficult 
and dangerous man with whom to have dealings," 
a washed-out version of the legendary Machia- 
velli. It is certain that Vergennes was no senti- 
mentalist, for which, however, he is hardly to be 
blamed, since the happy thought of blending sen- 
timentalism and diplomacy had not yet occurred 
to men. On the other hand, the Machiavellian 
principle that self-interest is the only feasible 
basis of a public policy was applied by him with 
certain very essential qualifications and limita- 
tions. England, it is true, he treated from the 
outset to a policy of duplicity and falsehood, but 
that nation, he held, had put herself beyond the 

of the minister's death. See also a eulogy of Vergennes* Conti- 
nental policy by Sorel in the Revue historique, XV. 273 ff., and a 
criticism of the same by Tratchevsky, ib., XVI. 327 ff. 


pale. On the Continent itself he sought unre- 
mittingly to bulwark the status quo behind 
the maxims of the Systeme de Conservation. 
"Force," he wrote, "can never vest a title, nor 
convenience bestow a right"; and the partition of 
Poland he denounced as "political brigandage." 
Moreover, he regarded the honor of the king as 
setting very definite limits beyond which politi- 
cal advantage was not to be sought. Capable 
himself of playing the Jesuit with most admired 
skill when occasion required, yet once the word of 
His Majesty was distinctly pledged, he deemed 
it inviolable. 

In a word, expert that he was in the use of the 
conventional weapons of eighteenth century 
French diplomacy, Vergennes had no thought of 
casting these aside or of greatly changing them. 
And the same is true of his attitude toward the 
accepted axioms of his profession. He believed 
in the doctrine of the Balance of Power, and till 
he was disillusioned by the results of the Ameri- 
can Revolution, in the tenets of Mercantilism. 
He adopted without reservation the fundamental 
postulate of the Classical System, that France 
by virtue of geographical position, wealth, intel- 
ligence, and military resources, was entitled to 
the preponderance in Europe. "France," he 
wrote in 1778, "placed in the center of Europe 
has the right to influence all great affairs. Her 
king, comparable to a supreme judge, is entitled 


to regard his throne as a tribunal set up by Provi- 
dence to make respected the rights and properties 
of sovereigns." 3 Alas! in 1774, the age-long 
prerogative of France was in eclipse, her pres- 
tige dimmed. "Among all nations," he after- 
ward declared of this period, 

the opinion prevailed that France no longer had either 
will or resources. The envy which till then had governed 
the policy of other courts toward France became con- 
tempt. The cabinet of Versailles had neither influence 
nor credit in any quarter. Instead of being, as formerly, 
the center of all great affairs, it became their idle spec- 
tator. Everywhere men treated its approval and its 
disapproval as alike negligible. 4 

It was a situation that touched him hardly less 
acutely than if it had been his own personal 

How, then, was France to recover her influ- 
ence and what use would she make of it, once 
it was recovered? Like Argenson, Vergennes 
linked the reputation of the House of Bour- 
bon with the cause of Continental peace. 

M&noire of Apr. 18, 1778, Flassan VI. 140 ffg. See also 
Recueil des Instructions, I. (Autriche), 488. See SMSS., No. 861, 
where Vergennes compares the wealth of France and Great Britain 
favorably to France. At the same time he envied the British gov- 
ernment the facility with which it commanded the resources of the 
realm. "Nous avons assurement," he wrote, "des resources plus 
reelles que 1'Angleterre, mais il s'en faut bien que le jeu en soit 
aussi facile. Cela tient a une opinion qui ne peut pas s'Stablir 
dans une monarchic absolue comme dans une monarchic mixte." 
Doniol, II. 18. 

*Ib. } I. 3-4. See also Sorel, op. cit. } I. 309. 


Like Broglie, he censured the overestimation of 
the Austrian connection that had eventuated in 
neglect of France's guardianship of the Peace of 
Westphalia, "one of the most beautiful jewels" 
of the Gallic crown. On the other hand, follow- 
ing Choiseul, he admitted that the Austrian al- 
liance, kept within due bounds, might yet prove 
useful to France in that its tendency was to pre- 
vent England and Austria from striking hands 
once more. It thus guaranteed, he argued, the 
peace of the Continent, where France could de- 
sire only peace, and, by the same sign, it left 
France at liberty "to direct her efforts to counter- 
balancing the power of England, whose naval 
superiority most necessarily enlisted her fore- 
sight." Finally, from the same point of view, 
he acclaimed the Family Compact as the very 
"cornerstone of France's whole system." This 
connection, it was true, required France always 
to stand ready to come to the defense of Spain's 
vast possessions beyond the sea, but it was, for 
all that, more valuable to France than to Spain. 
England was loath to break with Spain on ac- 
count of her profitable commerce there, from 
which she drew riches and employment, while 
with France no such motive held her back. "If 
there is anything capable of giving England 
pause, it is the thought of France and Spain 
united; it is the certainty that the first cannon- 


shot directed at the one or the other will be an- 
swered by both." 5 . k v . 

None the less, it would seem that at the moment 
of taking office Vergennes' policy looked toward 
an effort at amity with England; and it is cer- 
tain that he first assessed the American revolt as 
guaranteeing England's continued peaceableness 
rather than as furnishing a fulcrum for an ac- 
tively anti-English policy. 6 For this there were 
three reasons: In the first place, the American 
business itself was still much "in the vague." 
Again, Vergennes was aware that Louis had 
taken the throne pledged to a program of econ- 
omy and internal reform and to this program, he 
naturally assumed, diplomatic programs would 
have to be subordinated. 7 Finally, in July, 1774, 
by the Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji Russia had 
established herself on the shores of the Black Sea 
in territory wrested from Turkey. Alarmed at 
the prospect of a repetition of what had just oc- 
curred in Poland, as well as for France's monop- 
oly of the Levantine trade, Vergennes felt that 
his first attention must be given to the South- 

8 "Instructions to the Baron de Breteuil," Dec. 28, 1774, Re- 
cueil des Instructions, I. 478 ffg.; "ExposS succinct" of Dec. 8, 
1774, Doniol I. 14 ff. 

Ib., I. 13, 40. 

7 See Recueil des Instructions, I. 488: "La grandeur de la puis- 
sance du Roi, la position de ses ltats et ses soins que sa Majeste 
est resolv de donner leur administration inte>ieure, le mettront 
en effet ... en etat de choisir entre tous les systemes politiques 
celui qui conviendra le mieux a ses vues et a ses interets." 


eastern situation. Indeed, he seems at one 
moment to have considered the possibility of per- 
suading England herself to join in an effort to 
curb Russia's assaults upon the established 
equilibrium. 8 

But this attitude was, after all, weakly rooted 
in a thin soil. Moreover, Turkey's cession of the 
Chersonese was soon seen to be fait accompli. 
Vergennes' real disposition toward England 
found expression in connection with the dispute 
which began brewing in July, 1774, between Spain 
and Portugal over some aggressions of the lat- 
ter in South America. The possibility of war 
between Portugal and Spain raised the possibil- 
ity of war between Spain and England and that, 
in turn, the possibility of war between England 
and France. Commenting on the report that 
England desired an amicable settlement of the 
affair, Vergennes remarked: "We share the 
wish, rather from necessity than inclination."' 
And equally illuminative is an episode which oc- 
curred early in 1775 in connection with the de- 
struction which the king had just then ordered of 
the correspondence of the Secret du Rot. Among 
the papers about to be consigned to the flames 
was a plan that had been drawn up by Broglie 
in 1766 for the invasion of England. Vergennes 

8 See Hassall, The Balance of Power, 320; Recueil des Instruc- 
tions, IX. (Russe), 318-20; and Doniol, I. 15. 
Vergennes to Ossun, Oct. 31, 1774, Doniol, I. 33. 


and his associate, the Count du Muy, at once pe- 
titioned Louis to be allowed to save this docu- 
ment, a request which was promptly granted. 10 
But all other sources of instruction as to the 
new secretary's attitude toward England yield 
place to a document I have already cited more 
than once, his Expose Succinct, which was pre- 
pared early in December, 1774. This was, in 
brief, a plea for military preparation based on a 
survey of the whole diplomatic situation with 
which France was then confronted. "People," its 
author wrote, "respect a nation which they see 
prepared to make a vigorous resistance and which, 
without abusing the superiority of its forces, de- 
sires only that which is just and useful for the 
whole world, to wit, peace and general tranquil- 
lity." Unfortunately, however, while this was the 
objective of diplomacy, diplomacy itself was 
unable "to fix conclusively the choice of route 
thereto." It was a truth albeit a trite one, 

that the longer a peace has endured the less likely is it 
to continue. The fact that the present peace has lasted 
twelve years furnishes a strong prejudgment against 
its further stability. It is then not to transgress the 
limits of allowable prevision to insist upon the necessity 
of being ready for any event ; and besides, one is never 
better assured of peace than when one is in position 
not to fear war. Opinion, 'tis said, is queen of the 
world. 11 

*Sgur, I. 104-6; Doniol, I. 23-4. 
u Sgur, I. 169-70; Doniol, I. 20. 


Nor did Vergennes leave those whom he ad- 
dressed in doubt as to the practical bearing in the 
main of these generalizations: 

If [he wrote] having surveyed the Continent we turn 
our eyes coastward, do we find there greater pledges of 
security? We see lying alongside us a nation greedy, 
restless, more jealous of the prosperity of its neighbors 
than awake to its own happiness, powerfully armed and 
ready to strike on the instant. Let us not deceive our- 
selves ; whatever parade the English ministers may make 
of their pacific intentions, we cannot count upon this 
disposition longer than their domestic difficulties con- 
tinue. These however may come to an end, or indeed 
they may increase to such a point as to cause the 
government to direct the general uneasiness against ob- 
jects abroad. It is not without precedent that the cry 
of a war against France has become the rallying point 
of all parties in England. . . . Having nothing 
to gain with France by the prosecution of a legitimate 
commerce, England looks with envy upon the vast ex- 
tent of our plantations in America and our industry 
in Europe. 12 

Rarely has a minister of state drawn a more 
sinister picture of the purposes and policies of an 
ostensibly friendly government; and to the pic- 
ture so delineated, rumor soon added the touch 
of imminent menace. Within a few days of the 
preparation of the Expose, Vergennes received 

"/&., 18-9. Note the point of view revealed by the assertion that 
England has nothing to gain from "a legitimate commerce with 


from Gamier the report then circulating about 
London that Chatham had a plan by which peace 
could be reestablished in America without offense 
to the dignity of England. This plan, he at once 
inferred, could only be at the expense of France. 
True, he wrote Gamier, England was burdened 
with debts and was the object of universal enmity. 
True too, George III has little love for Chatham. 
But the very extremity of the situation in Amer- 
ica might compel his Britannic Majesty to con- 
quer his prejudices and call this "enemy of peace" 
to power once more. His doing so would signal a 
situation for which desperate remedies had been 
determined upon and France would have need 
to beware. 13 Six weeks later Gamier wrote still 
more alarmingly. Speaking on his own responsi- 
bility, he asserted very confidently that if the 
measures of the existing ministry "do not meet 
with complete success, the end of the administra- 
tion will follow immediately and the king will be 
forced to yield to circumstances and place my lord 
Chatham at the head of affairs. He will come in 
clothed with absolute power." 14 

There now ensued a considerable pause ; and it 
was the end of July, 1775, when the Count de 
Guines wrote that Lord Rochford, a member of 
the British ministry, had confided to him the be- 
lief of men in both parties, that the only way 

13 Vergennes to Gamier, Dec. 26, 1774, i&., 60-2. 


to end the war in America was to declare war 
upon France, the argument being that, if con- 
fronted with the necessity of choosing between 
England and France, the Americans in fear of 
seeing the latter once more in Canada would cer- 
tainly cast in their lot with the former, even at 
the expense of liberty. 15 A little later advices 
reached Vergennes by way of Madrid that, even 
though Chathan did not come again to power 
which was improbable the existing ministers 
seemed to wish to imitate his way of thinking, 
from which it resulted that war was not unlikely 
to break out at the least expected moment. 16 Fi- 
nally in the middle of September Vergennes sent 
Beaumarchais, the famous author of Figaro, to 
pump from Rochford, who was an old acquaint- 
ance of his, further information as to British 
intentions. Beaumarchais, in a letter which was 
handed the king September 21st, summarized his 
conclusions thus: "In short, America is lost to 
the British in spite of their efforts. The war is 
waged more ferociously in London than in Bos- 
ton. The crisis will end with war against France 
if the opposition comes in, whether it is Chatham 
or Rockingham who replaces Lord North," 1 

"76. 116-17. 

16 Ib., 117-19. See also the letter of Aug. 7 from Louis to 
Charles III, indicating the former's persuasion of the possibility 
of war with England, ib., 131-2. 

"John Durand (Ed.), Documents on the American Revolution 
(N. Y., 1889), 53-4 


Already, however, the secretary's interest in 
the American situation had ceased to be exclu- 
sively one of alarmed concern. Thus, late in Au- 
gust the ambassador had forwarded from London 
the text of the royal proclamation pronouncing 
the Americans "rebels," and Vergennes had con- 
cluded thence that, so long as the existing min- 
istry remained in office, there was little danger of 
an alliance between America reconciled and the 
mother-country, which would turn its combined 
forces against France and Spain. 18 Further- 
more, the little likelihood there had been at any 
time that the arch-enemy of France would come 
again to power was for the time being at an end. 
This great man, "the world forgetting, by the 
world forgot," was now in a mysterious seclusion 
from which he did not emerge till the beginning 
of 1777. For many months the name of Chat- 
ham, its magic in abeyance, drops out of the 
despatches altogether. 18 * 

A clue to the new point of view of the Foreign 
Office is afforded by its response to Guines' de- 
spatch of September 8th, reporting a statement 
by Rochford that the American Lee, now in 
London, had sworn "on his honor" that the col- 
onists had assurance of aid from France and 
Spain, and his own positive denial that this 

"Doniol, I. 172-4. 

18a The Correspondence of King George the Third with Lord 
North, from 1768 to 1783. (Ed. W. B. Donne, London, 1867, 
2 vols.), II. 10. 


statement had basis in fact. Replying ten days 
later Vergennes had commended the ambassa- 
dor's method of parrying his English interlocutor 
but at the same time had cautioned him against 
putting anything in writing. "The king," said 
he, "wishes neither to augment the difficulties of 
the British government nor to encourage the 
resistance of the Americans, but neither does it 
suit his interest to serve as a means of putting 
the latter down." 19 

Late in October Vergennes received the Brit- 
ish ambassador Stormont and engaged him in an 
extended conversation on the American situation 
with the aim, at once, of reassuring the English 
government as to French intentions and of dis- 
covering how seriously that government regarded 
its trans- Atlantic affairs. That which was now 
happening in America, the French secretary de- 
clared, he had himself foreseen when as ambassa- 
dor at Constantinople he had learned of the 
cession of Canada to England. He then pro- 
ceeded to suggest that what the Americans were 
plainly aiming at was independence and to con- 
jecture the consequences should they attain their 

In that case they would immediately set about form- 
ing a great marine, and as they have every possible ad- 
vantage for ship-building, [it] would not be long before 
they had such fleets as would be an overmatch for the 

"Doniol, I. 150-1. 


whole naval power of Europe, could it be united against 
them. ... In the end, they would not leave a foot of 
that hemisphere in the possession of any European 

To these speculations the Englishman assented 
eagerly. 20 It is evident that against the back- 
ground furnished by the siege of Boston, the news 
of which was already producing an immense stir 
in Paris, Choiseul's observation that "the balance 
of power lay in America" revealed a new 

In the closing days of 1775 the French Foreign 
Office proceeded, under Vergennes' direction, to 
formulate the problem with which the American 
revolt confronted France. It had before it 
memoirs and letters from a variety of quarters, 
some even from the French West Indies, but 
what is much more to the point, it had before 
it the plans and projects of Choiseul, wherein 
was clearly set forth the connection that existed 
between the American insurrection and the res- 
toration of French power and prestige, and 
wherein the large general problem was reduced to 
the more precise question whether the Americans 
would really proclaim their independence, or if 
they once proclaimed it, be of a mind to make a 
persistent effort for it. 21 

20 SMSS., No. 1306. 

a Doniol, I. 240-2. Vergennes had, upon taking office, reorgan- 
ized the archives of the Foreign Office, and had had his secretaries 


The answer that the Foreign Office returned to 
this question and the consequences that it deduced 
from its answer are set forth in the Reflexions, 
which was penned by Vergennes' secretary, Ger- 
ard de Rayneval, probably early in November, 
1775. 22 "There is reason to believe," this most im- 
portant document begins, "that the colonies are 
not in quest simply of a redress of grievances, but 
that they are resolved to throw off the yoke of 
the mother-country altogether." Yet, it con- 
tinues, "if the colonies are left to themselves, it 
is probable that Great Britain will succeed in 
subjugating them." What then is the course 
that France should pursue at this juncture? "If 
England subjugates the colonies she will at least 
retain the commercial benefits that she has always 
drawn thence and which will accordingly continue 
to sustain both her manufactures and her marine. 
She will, moreover, prevent the colonies from be- 
coming what they would be if independent, a con- 
siderable weight in the balance of power in favor 
of some other state." France's interest was there- 
fore plain. "England is the natural enemy of 
France, and a greedy, ambitious, unjust, and 

prepare elaborate summaries of French foreign policy in all di- 
rections from the time of the Peace of Westphalia, Revue 
d'Histoire diplomatique, VII. 540. 

**Ib., 243-9; SMSS., No. 1310. The conjecture as to date is 
based on M. Doniol's very probable theory that Beaumarchais' ac- 
tivities in behalf of the idea of secret aid came after the secretary 
had formulated his program in the "Reflexions": see Doniol I. 251. 


treacherous enemy, the constant and cherished 
object of whose system is, if not the destruction 
of France, at least her abasement, humiliation, 
and ruin." But now at this moment, England's 
"colonies are in open war against her, their pur- 
pose is to cast off her yoke, they ask us to furnish 
them aid and supplies." Suppose then we meet 
their desires and our assistance proves effective, 
what advantages will result to us? 

1. The power of England will shrink and ours will ex- 
pand correspondingly; 2. Her commerce will suffer an 
irreparable loss while ours will increase; 3. It is very 
probable that in the course of events we may be able 
to recover some of the possessions that the English 
ridded us of in America, as for instance, the Newfound- 
land fisheries, those of the gulf of St. Lawrence, the Isle 
Royal, etc. I do not speak of Canada. 23 

But if these were the premises upon which 
France should base her course, what precisely 
should that course be? Of men capable and will- 
ing to bear arms the colonies had a great suffi- 
ciency, but they lacked: "first, provisions of war; 
secondly, currency; thirdly, a good navy." To 
obtain the first it would only be necessary for 
them to send their vessels to French ports laden 
with produce which they should there exchange 
for arms and munitions. This commerce could 
easily proceed without the government having 
any visible hand in it: "it would only be necessary 

., 243-4. 


to have at each of the ports to which the American 
vessels resorted an intelligent merchant whose 
loyalty and discretion could be relied upon." The 
demand for money was somewhat more difficult, 
but given legitimate dimensions, it could be met 
in the same way as the demand for munitions. 
Most difficult of all would it be to furnish the 
insurgents vessels of war without declaring 
openly for them and so "precipitating war with 
Great Britain." Still it would perhaps be feasi- 
ble to send some merchant vessels adapted to the 
uses of war to Santo Domingo, where they could 
pass to the Americans by a simulated purchase. 
But the essential thing was that France should 
lose no time in reinforcing the courage of the 
Americans, and by doing it secretly she would 
avoid compromising herself either with the insur- 
gents or the court of London, while at the same 
time "she would be putting herself in shape to 
strike decisive blows" when the time was ripe. 24 
Thus, it was admitted, that secret aid looked 
forward to possible war. But then, it was argued, 
a policy of inaction would be no guaranty of 
peace either, whether England triumphed or 
the insurgents. For in the one case as in the 
other the court of London would believe itself 
warranted in attacking France's colonies. Pru- 
dence therefore dictated that the means of waging 
war with success should be prepared beforehand, 

*Ib., 246-8. 


and one of the most essential of such means was 
"to make sure" of the Americans. 25 

With the appearance of the Refleacions be- 
gan in good earnest the contest for the support of 
the king, earlier alluded to, between those who 
wished to see a brilliant diplomatic program 
adopted and those who, headed by Turgot, urged 
domestic reform and economy. 26 At the outset 
the royal conscience was in the possession of the 
reformers. Happily for the program of the 
Foreign Office, in the lively and inventive Beau- 
marchais, a veritable Cagliostro in the blend he 
presents of interested calculation and generous 
enthusiasm, Vergennes had a zealous missionary 
of his cause and one who, moreover, stood high in 
the favor of the royal family. On December 7th 
Beaumarchais handed Vergennes a letter ad- 
dressed "to the king alone, very important" and 
headed with the motto summum jus summa in- 
juria. In this extraordinary document the author 
of Figaro proceeded to attack with vigor the 
conscientious scruples which he thought stood in 
the way of the king's adopting the plan of secret 
aid: "The national policy which preserves 

25 76., 249. 

* See Lavisse, op. cit., 46-51. 

* T On Beaumarchais' part in the American Revolution see Whar- 
ton, I. 56-75; John Durand, op. cit., 38-159; Louis de Lomenie, 
Beaumarchais and his Times (Trans, by H. S. Edwards, N. Y., 
1857), Chs. XVII-XX; Blanche E. Hazard, Beaumarchais and the 
American Revolution (Boston, 1910). 


states," he argued, "differs in every respect 
almost entirely from the civil morality which gov- 
erns individuals." "Solus populi suprema lex" 
But even if this were not the case good faith 
would not be due England, "that natural enemy, 
that jealous rival of your success, that people 
always systematically unjust to you." 

Indeed not even a treaty would have justly restrained 
you on this occasion. For when have the usurpations 
and outrages of this people ever had any limit but that 
of its strength? Has it not always waged war against 
you without declaring it? Did it not begin the last one, 
in a time of peace, by the sudden capture of five hundred 
of your vessels ? Did it not humble you by forcing you 
to destroy your finest seaport? Has it not recently 
subjected your merchant vessels to inspection on the 
northern seas? a humiliation which would have made 
Louis XIV rather eat his hands than not atone for it? 

Finally, Beaumarchais again invoked general 
principles. Tranquillity is most safely based on 
the division of one's enemies, the way to conquer 
iniquity is to arm it against itself. And if, he 
concluded, there is anyone who does not agree 
with me, "beginning with M. de Vergennes," "I 
close my mouth, I cast into the fire Scaliger, Gro- 
tius, Puffendorf, Gravina, Montesquieu, every 
writer on public rights, and admit that the study 
of a lifetime has been only a waste of effort." 28 
Meantime, in August, 1775, the Count de 

Durand, op. cit., 59-73. 


Guines, acting under instructions from Ver- 
gennes, had despatched a certain Bonvouloir to 
America to travel in a private capacity, to gather 
impressions, and to insinuate to such influential 
Americans as he met the admiration felt in 
France for their noble efforts after liberty, the 
entire disinterestedness of the French govern- 
ment so far as Canada was concerned, and the 
welcome which American merchantmen would 
receive in French harbors. Early in March, 1776, 
Bonvouloir's first report, which was highly san- 
guine of American prospects, reached Paris. 29 
Thus confirmed in his idea of the military compe- 
tence of the Colonies, Vergennes proceeded at 
once to shape up his plan of secretly aiding them, 
for discussion by his associates in office. At the 
same time he still had before him the certainty 
of Turgot's opposition, with the result that there 
is a marked difference in tone between the M e- 
moire de Considerations and the earlier Reflex- 
ions. Thus at the outset of the Considerations, 
in an effort to supersede the language of 
advocacy with that of scientific detachment, Ver- 
gennes concedes ostensibly that whether France 
and Spain should desire the subjection or the 
independence of the English colonies was "per- 
haps problematical," that either event perhaps 

Wharton, I. 38-40. For the report itself, see Doniol, I. 287- 
92, especially 287-8; and for a translation, Durand, 2-16. 
10 Doniol, I. 273-9; SMSS., No. 1316. 


threatened "dangers that it was not within human 
foresight to provide against." 31 Also the notion 
that "Providence had marked out this moment 
for the humiliation of England by striking her 
with the madness which is the sure precurser of 
destruction" is ostentatiously disavowed in the 
name of both the Bourbon kings. 32 On the other 
hand, two propositions are offered as axiomatic: 
first, that the prolongation of the American war 
would be "highly advantageous to both France 
and Spain, inasmuch as it would be calculated to 
exhaust both the victors and the vanquished"; 33 
and secondly, that whatever the final result of the 
struggle between England and her Colonies, 
France could hardly hope for peace, since if 
England conciliated or subjected the Colonies 
she would be tempted by the large forces on hand 
to make an easy conquest of the West Indies, 
whereas if she lost them, she would be driven 
thus to indemnify herself. 34 And from these sup- 
posed facts it is held to follow that it was for the 
interest of both France and Spain, while "dexter- 
ously reassuring" England as to their intentions, 
to "extend the insurgents secret aid both in 
money and military stores without seeking any 
return for so doing beyond the political objective 

81 Doniol, I. 273 
!&., 275. 
/&., 276. 
*/&., 274-5. 


of the moment". This should be the program for 
at least the ensuing twelve months. Meantime 
"the idea of independence, which seems to ger- 
minate rather slowly among the Americans," 
would perhaps have come to maturity. At any 
rate the two crowns would have had opportunity 
to perfect their forces. 35 

Adroitly, however, as this argument was 
framed to anticipate the objections of the control- 
ler-general, it did not conceal the essential risk 
of the program it supported. It is significant, 
therefore, that the burden of Turgot's criticism 
of the Considerations is a protest against any 
program likely to precipitate an avoidable war, 
the expense of which must necessarily aggravate 
the already serious state of the royal finances. 
For the rest, striking to the very heart of the for- 
eign secretary's argument, its mercantilist pre- 
suppositions, the controller-general predicted 
that the day of "colonies exclusively riveted to 
the mother-country" was over, and counselled 
that that nation would show itself wisest and most 
deserving of happiness which should first convert 
its colonists from subjects to allies. Spain, said 
he, "ought to expect to see herself abandoned by 
her colonies; it was necessary to make ready for 
the commercial revolution which the new regime 
would bring about: by the same sign, there was 
little need of uneasiness lest England pounce 

/&., 277-8. 


upon France's colonies, since there was no ad- 
vantage involved in longer possessing them." 
"What difference did it make, then, whether 
England subjugated her colonies or not? Sub- 
jugated, they would occupy her attention by their 
desire to become free ; freed, their whole commer- 
cial system would be altered and England would 
have no further interest than to appropriate to 
herself the benefits of the new system." 30 As to 
the likelihood that England was planning to 
attack France, Turgot was frankly sceptical, but, 
he argued, if that were found to be the case, then 
France ought to prepare for the danger nearer 
at home, and especially by strengthening her 
fleet. Meantime it would be proper to put the 
Americans in the way of procuring the munitions 
and even the money they needed by means of 
trade, but there should be no departure by the 
government itself from neutrality and no act of 
direct aid. 37 

Turgot, however, was fighting what from the 
first was foreordained a losing battle. In the 
words of Soulavie, the cause of "Reform, Re- 
trenchment, and Rights to be realized" could not 
hold its own with a selfish and ambitious court 
against a program of "Revenge, Glory, and Hu- 

"Ib., 281. 

"76., 282-3. Turgot also makes the point, later to be empha- 
sized by the Spanish government, that "an attack on England 
would be a signal for the reconciliation of England and America 
and would precipitate the very danger" which the Foreign Office's 
policy ostensibly sought to avoid. 


miliation to be retrieved"; and even liberals like 
LaFayette found the iflea of shedding blood for 
liberty abroad more to their taste than that of 
shedding feudal immunities at home. There had, 
indeed, been a period at the end of February and 
early in March when the Maurepas cabinet had 
seemed about to succumb to the joint attacks of 
the friends of Choiseul and Guines. But while 
the sentiments of the latter nobleman were so ex- 
cessively pacific that he had just been superseded 
by the Duke de Noailles at Saint James', 38 Choi- 
seul was loudly critical of the ministry's apparent 
failure to appreciate the possibilities of the Ameri- 
can revolt; 39 and the total result of the episode 
had been to solidify the ministry, except for 
the Liberals Turgot and Malesherbes, in support 
of a more enterprising policy. In their comments 
on the Considerations, St. Germain, the minister 
of War, and Sartines, the minister of Marine, did 
little more than reecho the arguments of Ver- 
gennes, while Maurepas took a line that was 
frankly belligerent. 40 

See Doniol, I. 359-68. 

"Stormont to Weymouth, Dec. 6, 1775; Jan. 10 and Feb. 14, 
1776: SMSS., 1307, 1313, 1314. For the circumstances attending 
the recall of Guines from London, for which, curiously enough, 
Turgot was primarily responsible, and the intrigue that had for 
its purpose to bring Choiseul into power, see Last Journal of Hor- 
ace Walpole (Ed. Doran, London, 1859, 2 vols.), II. 9-13. 

*Ib., 280, 284-6. The statement as to Maurepas' attitude is 
based on the assumption, sanctioned by M. Doniol, that the "Re- 
flexions sur la N6cessit6 de secourir les Ame>icains et de se pr6- 
parer a la Guerre avec 1'Angleterre" was his work. This document 


The ministerial arguments, moreover, were 
again supplemented by the ardent advocacy of 
Beaumarchais, to whose effusion entitled La 
Paix ou la Guerre is generally credited Louis' 
final conversion to the plan of secret aid. 41 On 
May 2nd the king at last definitely authorized the 
advance of a million livres to Beaumarchais for 
the purchase of supplies to be transferred to the 
Americans. Six weeks later the Spanish court 
made a similar advance, and the following Au- 
gust the famous house of Hortalez et Cie opened 
its doors. Within a twelvemonth it had des- 
patched to America eight ship-loads of warlike 
stores, valued at more than six million livres 
and drawn in large part from the royal arsenals. 42 
Meantime, on May 12th, Turgot had been dis- 
missed, leaving Vergennes the directing influence 
in the ministry. 

closes with the following illuminating observation : "Toutes ces con- 
siderations r6unies pourroient done porter a conclure meme Poffen- 
sive comme le seul moyen de rtablir notre marine d'une part et de 
1'autre d'affaiblir celle de 1'Angleterre, et comme le seul moyen 
d'assurer pour longtems la paix du Continent qui n'a jamais 6t6 
troubled que par leurs intrigues ou leur argent." "The ablest man 
I knew," wrote Horace Walpole, "was the old Comte de Maurepas. 
. . . Knowing his enmity to this country, I told him . . . that it 
was fortunate for England that he had been so long divested of 
power." Trevelyan, The American Revolution, Pt. III. 413 fn. 

4l Durand, op. cit., 74-85; Lomenie, op. cit., 267-71. 

41 See the references in note 27, supra, especially Wharton, I. 
60 ff.; also C. J. Stille, "Beaumarchais and the Lost Million," 
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XI. 1-36. 



For many months secret aid was a mystery 
closely guarded from even its beneficiaries. The 
decision to render it, none the less, involved cer- 
tain diplomatic consequences at once. Beaumar- 
chais had not yet begun operations when Eng- 
land lodged a complaint against Americans being 
allowed to procure powder in the French West 
Indies and to fly the French flag from their mast- 
heads. 1 Perceiving the bearing of the question, 
Vergennes promptly took up an aggressive posi- 
tion. He recalled England's traffic in arms with 
Corsica when France was subjugating that island. 
He asserted entire willingness to abide by the 
English doctrine that contraband must have a 
hostile destination, wherefore vessels plying be- 
tween France and the French islands would not 
be subject to seizure on the charge of carrying 
it. He ridiculed the idea that England could 
pretend a grievance in the fact that the Ameri- 
cans were getting aid from France through the 
channels of trade : the French markets were open 

'Gamier to Vergennes, May 6, 1776, Doniol, I. 463. 


to all and those who paid best would have the 
preference. Thus, to use a more modern termin- 
ology, Vergennes gave notice of his government's 
intention to treat the Americans as possessed of 
"belligerent rights", including the right of an 
inviolable asylum in neutral ports for their peace- 
ful traders. 2 

But the question of the trading rights of neu- 
trals was from the outset but one ingredient of 
the diplomatic situation between England and 
France, and not the most important ingredient 
at that. Far more ominous was the stage which 
the dispute between Spain and Portugal, arising 

3 Vergennes to Gamier, June 15 and 21, ib., 466-9. See also 
Vergennes to Noailles, March 21, 1777, ib., II. 334: "Nous en 
[the question of prizes] usons avec les insurgens comme nous 
ferions avec toute nation amie qui seront en guerre avec 1'Angle- 
terre." Other interesting documents in the same connection are 
Dumas' letter to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, May 
14, 1776, Wharton II. 90-2; the "Expose des Motifs de la Conduite 
du Roi Tres-Chr6tien relativement a 1'Angleterre," Doniol, III. 
823-56; and Observations on the Justificatory Memorial of the 
Court of London (see Appendix IV), 102-12. That the modern 
distinction between "Belligerency" and "Independence" in the 
case of communities seeking admission to the Family of Nations 
found no place in the Public Law of the period is shown by the 
following passage from the pen of Horace Walpole: "An Amer- 
ican privateer had carried three prizes into Bilboa. The governor 
had detained them. . . . He was ordered by Grimaldi's letter to 
restore them, the king of Spain professing an exact neutrality, 
which was in effect owning our colonies for an independent state," 
Last Journals, II. 87. It it an interesting speculation, to what 
extent the French alliance with the United States was made neces- 
sary by the absence of a distinction which would have enabled 
France to aid the Americans without violating England's rights. 


from the latter's aggressions in South America, 
had now reached. Because of the alliances of 
these powers with France and England respec- 
tively, the outbreak of war between them meant 
almost inevitably war between England and 
France as well. 3 The Spanish ambassador at 
Paris, the Count d'Aranda, who was a bitter 
enemy of England, had from the first pro- 
claimed this as a welcome development in view 
of England's growing embarrassment in North 
America. 4 Vergennes, on the other hand, dis- 
liking the obvious ambition of Spain to annex 
Portugal, both because he regarded such a pro- 
ject as contrary to the precepts of the Systeme 
de Conservation and also because he feared for 
the smooth working of the Family Compact 
should Spain become the equal of France, had 
sought to compose the differences of the Iberian 
states. His efforts at pacification had, however, 
been followed by fresh aggressions on Portugal's 
part, instigated, Spain hinted, by the English; 5 

"Si la guerre entre FEspagne et le Portugal devient indis- 
pensable, ce que la situation prdsente des affaires entre les deux 
puissances ne donne que trop sujet d'appr&iender, il est inevitable 
que la guerre avec FAngleterre en sera la suite et que la France 
ne pourra pas se dispenser d'y prendre la part la plus directe." 
Such are the opening words of the memoir read by Vergennes to 
the council of ministers held at Marly, July 7, 1776, Doniol, I. 

* Vd. ib., 352 ff. For an interesting characterization of this 
unique individual, see Sgur, Memoirs, I. 390. Cf. Doniol, V. 30. 

On the whole matter, see Doniol, I. 75-6, 298-312, 330-7, 525, 


and by the beginning of July, Vergennes had 
come quite around to Aranda's viewpoint. 

A warlike situation now developed rapidly. 6 
To a council of ministers held at Marly on July 
7th Vergennes presented the Spanish-Portu- 
guese matter as offering France the opportunity 
"to break the power of the single enemy she had 
cause to fear," provided only French diplomacy 
was equal to the occasion. First and foremost, 
the war must be kept from spreading to the Con- 
tinent, which could be readily guaranteed by 
Austria's standing by to prevent Russia from 
falling upon Sweden. Again, in Holland the 
ashes of the old Republican party must be fanned 
to flame once more and Dutch neutrality be se- 
cured by appeal to Dutch avarice. Finally, it 
was essential "to let the Americans know of the 
present state of affairs and the results which it 
presaged, and, without assuming engagements 
with them, yet to make them understand the full 
advantage which existing circumstances prom- 
ised had they but the hardihood and patience to 
await their unfolding." 7 

Vergennes' English correspondence at this period contains 
many sharp criticisms of the treatment French subjects were 
alleged to be receiving in Newfoundland and Hindoostan. Most 
of these supposed grievances were long-standing ones. Their 
revival at this moment is indication of the French government's 
belligerent intention. See generally the references in note 2, 

7 76., 527-8. Compare Garnier's "Lettre particuliere" of May 15, 
SMSS., No. 868. 


Four days later Deane, the Continental Con- 
gress' first agent to France, who had just arrived 
at Paris, was admitted by Vergennes to a secret 
interview. The secretary would not express him- 
self on the subject of American independence, 
especially as "the United Provinces" had not yet 
expressed themselves ; but he gave assurance that 
no obstacles would be placed in the way of Amer- 
icans trading in French ports, whether in muni- 
tions or other products. He proposed that Deane 
should keep the Foreign Office en rapport with all 
important happenings in America, and strongly 
advised him to steer clear of Englishmen. 8 Then 
on August 13th Gamier wrote from London 
that the Americans had at last declared their in- 
dependence. 9 In a "committee" consisting of 
the king and cabinet, held on August 31st, Ver- 
gennes, casting equivocation aside, proclaimed 
that, as between the advantages and disadvan- 
tages of a war "against England in the present 
juncture, . . . the former outweigh the latter so 
unmistakably that no comparison can be made" : 
The Americans had now declared their indepen- 

8 Deane to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, Wharton, 
op. cit., II. 112-6. The British government protested against 
Deane's having been allowed to land in France, a protest at which 
Vergennes professed to take great umbrage: "Le Roy est le 
maltre chez lui, . . . il n'a compte a rendre a qui que soit des 
etrangers qu'il juge a-propos d'admettre dans ses Etats," Doniol, 
I. 583. 

/&., 561. 


dence. These same Americans it was, their 
sailors and soldiers, who had made "those vast 
conquests of which France has in times past so 
keenly felt the humiliation." They were now 
available allies; and, thanks to commerce, the 
connection now formed with them could not fail 
to be lasting. 10 Against these arguments no voice 
was raised, and a week later the memoir embody- 
ing them was despatched to Madrid for approval 
by that court. 

Why, then, did not the war come ? The answer 
is supplied by the fact that the very day that the 
response of the Spanish government arrived ac- 
cepting its ally's program, though with a char- 
acteristic stipulation for further delay, 11 the news 
came from Garnier of the American defeat at 
Long Island. 12 Vergennes at once decided that 
the policy of secret aid still remained the better 
part of valor, but he was able to conceal his re- 
treat under the pretext of disapproving of 
Spain's plan, which still included the conquest of 
Portugal. 13 "The king," he wrote, "will always 
regard the aggrandizement of the Spanish mon- 
archy with satisfaction but His Majesty is unable 
to conceal from the king, his uncle, that the con- 
quest of Portugal would be alarming to all states 

*/&., 567-77, especially 570-1; SMSS., No. 897. 
11 Grimaldi to Aranda, Oct. 8, 1776, Doniol, I. 603-13. The main 
points of the document are summarized on pages 612-13. 
11 76., 615-6. 
13 "Reflexions," &., 681-8. 


interested in maintaining the balance of power." 
"If," he continued, "it is a universal maxim, as 
contended by the Marquis de Grimaldi, that one 
makes war only for the purpose of gain, yet this 
maxim ought to be adopted by the two crowns in 
the existing situation only with the idea in mind 
that everything is to be gained by breaking down 
the power of England." Could that be done, 
then would 

France and Spain have achieved an advantage more 
precious than could be represented by the conquest of a 
rich province. For once England is unable to keep 
going the flame of discord among the great sovereigns 
of Europe, then will the two monarchs no longer be ham- 
pered in exercising their better inclinations, which look 
only to securing to their own subjects and to all Europe 
the sweet fruits of a sure and durable peace. 14 

A few weeks later we find Vergennes penning 
the British ambassador the following billet: 

Versailles, December 21st, 1776. Monsieur: I am 
indeed touched at the attention shown me by Your Ex- 
cellency in admitting me to share your joy at the satis- 
factory news of the success of British arms in Connecti- 
cut and New York. I beg Your Excellency to accept 
my many thanks at this testimonial of your friendship, 
and my sincere felicitations upon an event so calculated 
to contribute to the reestablishment of peace in that 
part of the globe. I shall impart the communication 
made me to the king and now take it upon myself to 
assure you that His Majesty will always receive with 
"76., 685-7. 


pleasure news of whatever may contribute to the satis- 
faction and glory of the king your master. 15 

Vergennes' policy during the late months of 
1776 and the early months of 1777 may be char- 
acterized in the poignant phrase of today as one 
of "watchful waiting." The secretary had aban- 
doned none of his fundamental premises: "The 
purpose of every offensive war is either to ag- 
grandize one's self or to enfeeble the rival power, 
whose superiority one fears. ... As everything 
is relative in the political order, they [the two 
crowns] will necessarily increase by reason of the 
enfeeblement of their rival. . . . By renouncing 
every idea of supremacy the English would be 
free to recognize the independence against which 
they are armed": and more to like effect. 16 On 

., II. 107, fn. 2. A month earlier than this, Vergennes had 
told Stormont that it was contrary to the king's intention that his 
subjects should go to America, SMSS., No. 905. On Dec. 10, the 
secretary ordered Lenoir to arrest all persons giving out that they 
were intending to go to America, ib., No. 1385. Vergennes' de- 
spatches to Noailles at this period display considerable uneasiness 
as to British intentions, ib. Nos. 907, 913, and 917. The fact is 
that Vergennes, relying on American and Spanish assistance, had 
been planning an attack upon England for which the French 
marine was not at all fit. See Doniol, II. 156-70. Hence, the extent 
of his reaction after the American defeat at Long Island. 

"Vergennes to Ossun, Mar. 11, 1777, ib., 238-41. See also the 
document given in Appendix II. Though the work of a "private 
citizen" it was prepared, Doniol thinks, for the Council. Vd. ib., 118. 
Its speculations as to the effect of the success of the Revolution 
on France's position in Europe take a wide range. 


the other hand, it is quite apparent that his con- 
fidence in the military capacity of the Americans 
indeed, in the vitality of their cause had suf- 
fered a great shock from the disaster of Long 
Island. Of these facts he must again be per- 
suaded before he would consent to risk the dig- 
nity of the French crown, and meantime, between 
American importunity and British suspicion, he 
must take his way charily. 

The clue to the period is furnished by the com- 
parison of two memoirs from the secretary's pen 
that are dated respectively April 12th and April 
26th, 1777. The latter, a criticism upon certain 
propositions of the Spanish government, which 
still continued in a warlike frame of mind, con- 
tained the following homily in favor of peace: 

"One knows well enough where war begins, but no 
one can know where or how it will end. If one could be 
sure that England would concentrate against us and not 
extend her efforts to the Continent, the present occasion 
would be very seductive and it would require a sublime 
exercise of virtue to repulse it. But the existence of 
England is a matter of concern from the point of view of 
the equilibrium of Europe; it is accordingly necessary 
to anticipate that she will not be left alone. . . . The 
uprising in America has remained up to the present a 
purely domestic matter so far as England is concerned ; 
she sees in the insurgents only a people in revolt whom 
she has a right to recall to their obedience by whatever 
means lie within her reach and without other powers 
having any title to mix up in the affair. To offer to 


intervene would be in some sort to recognize and support 
the independence which the American provinces have 
declared, since it is only between equal powers that 
intervention ordinarily takes place. 17 

The earlier memoir struck a quite different note. 
Composed in anticipation of a visit of the em- 
peror to Paris, it urged the necessity of the 
Austrian connection to France, because, by assur- 
ing the peace on the Continent, it paved the way 
for "taking measures against England, the 
natural and most inveterate enemy of France, her 
glory and prosperity." 18 

""Lettre . . . communiquee au Roi," etc., t&., 271 ff., 272-4 
See also passage to like effect in Vergennes to Ossun, Mar. 22, 
1777, #>., 248. Also, same to same, Apr. 12, where the following 
words occur: "Si nous pouvions r6tablir 1'opinion du bon etat de 
nos finances, toutes nos possessions servient bien plus en surete 
sous cet abri que sous la protection d'escadres nombreuses qui 
peuvent etre primees ou surpassees," ib., 261, a sentiment alto- 
gether worthy of Turgot! 

ts ffe., 428; Flassan, Histoire gtntrale et raisonnte, etc., VII. 135. 
See also Vergennes' note of February 12 to Aranda in response 
to propositions emanating from the British government looking 
to a general disarmament by France, Spain, and Great Britain: 
"Si nous accordons a desarmer nous epargnons sans doute une 
grande depense mais Foconomie sera plus grande pour 1'Angle- 
terre," etc. Doniol, II. 155, 208-9. It was also during this period 
that the controversy occurred between the French and Spanish gov- 
ernments over the question of sending further reinforcements to 
Hayti and Santo Domingo, in view of the continued possibility 
of war over the Portuguese question. Vergennes argued against 
the idea on the ground that the climate was fatal to Europeans 
and on the ground that such a step would tend to alarm Great 
Britain and make her less ready to accept France's friendly as- 


Inevitably, it was a period of episodes. It was 
at this time that LaFayette, eluding the decep- 
tive vigilance of the royal officers, made his way 
to America, though he would have preferred to 
lead a filibustering expedition against the Eng- 
lish settlements in the East. 19 It was at this time 
that the minister of War, St. Germain, induced 
Steuben to come to America to assist in training 
the Continental Army. It was also at this 
time that the Count de Broglie launched his 
scheme, which had the approval of Deane, for 
making himself a sort of temporary stadtholder 
of the United States and commissioned Kalb, 
Choiseul's former emissary to America, to enlist 
the interest of Congress. 

Writing Kalb from his country-seat at Ruff ec, 
December llth, Broglie set forth the outlines 
of his plan as follows: 

A military and political leader is wanted, a man fitted 
to carry the weight of authority in the colonies, to unite 
its parties, to assign to each his place. The main point 
of the mission with which you have been entrusted will 
therefore consist in explaining the advantages, or rather, 
the absolute necessity of the choice of such a man. 
The rank accorded the candidate would have to be of 
the first eminence, such for instance, as that of the 
Prince of Nassau; but his functions would have to be 

surances. As the troops were sent later on (in July: see Doniol, 
II. 453), we man conclude that the second was the important con- 
sideration. See references in Chapter I., supra, note 8. 
"Doniol, II. ch. 2; SMSS., No. 756. 


confined to the army, . . . with perhaps the single 
exception of the political negotiations with foreign 
powers; . . . the assurance of the man's return to 
France at the end of three years will remove every ap- 
prehension in regard to the powers to be conferred and 
will remove even the semblance of an ambitious design 
to become governor of the new republic. Of course 
large pecuniary consideration would have to be claimed 
for the preparation of the journey and for the journey 
itself and a liberal salary for the return home. You 
can give the assurance that such a measure will bring 
order and economy into the public expense, that it will 
reimburse the cost a hundred-fold in a single campaign. 
You will be equally mindful to dwell upon the effect 
necessarily produced by such an appointment on its 
mere announcement in Europe. 20 

I know of no documentary evidence connecting 
Vergennes with this extraordinary scheme. Yet 
it seems to me hardly supposable that a great 
noble like Broglie, who obviously had none of the 
youthful enthusiasm of LaFayette and who was 
already more or less at outs with the court on 
account of his connection with the Secret du Roi, 
would have risked the king's further displeasure 

"Friedrich Kapp, Life of Kalb, pp. 94-5. See also Kalb's 
memoir of Dec. 17, addressed to Deane, which is to be found in the 
French Archives des Affaires 6trangeres. Here the additional 
argument is offered that the step proposed by Broglie would so 
enlist the interest of the nobility that they would force the king 
to make an alliance with the Americans. Broglie's own expecta- 
tions from the scheme are also set forth in greater detail. SMSS., 
No. 604; Deane Papers, I. 426-31. 


by lending himself to a project of incalculable 
possibilities without some sort of assurance as to 
the attitude of his government. Moreover, the 
plan lent itself rather nicely to the requirements 
of the American situation as these appeared to 
the French government at the moment: The 
American cause was on the verge of collapse for 
want of competent military leadership; it also 
lacked prestige in Europe; the king did not dare 
openly take up the cudgels for so feeble a client; 
French officers were departing daily for America 
on their own account; if Broglie failed, it would 
be as easy to disavow him as to disavow LaFay- 
ette, Coudray, or any other; if he succeeded, 
France would reap the fruits of his success; His 
Most Christian Majesty has proffered Poland a 
Conti, why not America a Broglie? 21 

But now a policy of marking time is one that 
from the nature of things ceases in time to be 
feasible, for either the event awaited is upon one 
or it has descended below the horizon of sensi- 
ble probability. Even by January 1st, 1777, there 
was in train a series of events that by mid-summer 
of that year had forced Vergennes finally to 
choose his position. The rendition of secret 
aid to the Americans through the channels of 
commerce still continued, but subject to be inter- 

21 See generally C. J. Stille, "The Comte de Broglie, Proposed 
Stadtholder of America," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and 
Biography, XI. 369-405; Doniol, II. Ch. 2; Wharton, I. 391-6. 


rupted at any time by measures of the govern- 
ment meant to allay British suspicions. The 
result was discontent on both hands. The, per- 
haps designedly, bungling methods of the agents 
of secret aid were constantly furnishing Lord 
Stormont texts for remonstrance, 22 and mean- 
time American gratitude took on a tinge of 
resentment. 23 

But of far more importance was the fact that 
Franklin was now in France. Almost from the 
outset had Franklin's assured front restored the 
American cause to the footing it had had in popu- 
lar estimation before the news of Long Island. 
The prestige of his immense reputation "more 
universal than that of Leibnitz or Newton, Fred- 
erick or Voltaire" 24 had suggested, for the first 

22 SMSS., Nos. 1306, 1309, 1418, 1427, 1496, 1519, 1531, 1593, etc. 
In his despatch to Weymouth of Jan. 7, 1778, Stormont declares 
that "the very existence of the American army depends upon the 
arrival of these succors," ib. f No. 1822. 

"See, for instance, Franklin, Deane, and Lee to Vergennes, 
Jan. 5, 1777: "We are also instructed to solicit the court of 
France for an immediate supply of twenty or thirty thousand 
muskets. . . . This application has now become the more neces- 
sary, as the private purchase made by Mr. Deane of those articles 
is rendered ineffectual by an order forbidding their exportation": 
Wharton, II. 245. Also, to like effect, ib., 257. The inadequacy 
of secret aid to establish any hold on the Americans is recognized 
by Vergennes in his despatch to Ossun of Apr. 7, Doniol, II. 341. 
And see ib., generally, pp. 305-12. 

*Life and Works of John Adams (Boston, 1856), I. 660. The 
passage is worthy more extended quotation: "His reputation 
was more universal than that of Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or 
Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any 


time perhaps, that if America was to be made an 
ally at all, it must be on terms of exact equality. 
The charm of his unique personality, the interest- 
ing phases of which he exploited with faultless 
facility and with just the touch of charlatanism 
that the sentimentalism of the age demanded, had 
served from the moment of his landing at Auray 
to focus to a blaze of enthusiasm the diverse lines 
of opinion making among all classes of French- 
men for the king's espousal of the American 
cause. 25 

or all of them. Newton had astonished perhaps forty or fifty 
men in Europe. . . . But this fame was confined to men of letters. 
The common people knew little and cared nothing about such a 
recluse philosopher. Leibnitz's name was more confined still. . . . 
Frederick was hated by more than half of Europe. . . . Voltaire, 
whose name was more universal . . . was considered as a vain and 
profligate wit, and not much esteemed or beloved by anybody, 
though admired by all who knew his works. But Franklin's fame 
was universal. His name was familiar to government and people, 
to kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy and philosophers, as well as 
plebeians, to such a degree that there was scarcely a peasant or a 
citizen, a valet de chambre, coachman or footman, a lady's cham- 
bermaid or a scullion in a kitchen, who was not familiar with it, 
and who did not consider him a friend to human kind." Matthew 
Arnold somewhere comments on the curious fact that America 
contributed her only world-wide reputation, that of Franklin, while 
she was still a province. 

"See generally Edward Everett Hale and Edward Everett 
Hale, Jr., Franklin in France (Boston, 1886-8, 2 vols.). "Tout 
Paris visitait Franklin dans sa maison de Passy. Admire" par les 
savants et les philosophes qui le comparaient a Socrate et a New- 
ton, il charmait le populaire par sa bonhomie et par la simplicity" 
dc ses habits bruns et de ses gros souliers." Lavisse, op. cit., IX. 1 
104. See also an undated pamphlet by Hilliard d'Auberteuil on 
Franklin (Penn. Hist'l Soc. Lib.). 


Franklin arrived in Paris December 21st, and 
two days later he and his associates, Deane and 
Lee, requested an audience with the French sec- 
retary, which was accorded them the 28th. 26 The 
suggestion of a formal audience having been 
evaded by Vergennes, on January 5th, 1777, the 
commissioners made explicit their expectations 
of France in a note: "Eight ships of the line 
completely manned," with which to clear the 
American coast of British cruisers, and twenty 
or thirty thousand stand of muskets and bayonets, 
together with a "large quantity of ammunition 
and brass field pieces, to be sent under convoy." 
In return for these favors, Congress offered 
France and Spain a treaty of amity and com- 
merce and also "to guarantee in the firmest man- 
ner to those nations all their possessions in the 
West Indies, as well as those they shall acquire 
from the enemy in a war that may be consequen- 
tial of such assistance as" it requested. 27 It is 
hardly surprising that Vergennes found these 
demands rather staggering. However, he ar- 
gued his refusal of them with the utmost suavity 
and good nature; 28 and, what is more, followed 
it up with an advance of 250,000 limes, the first 
instalment, as he announced, of a loan of two mil- 

M Franklin, Deane, and Lee to Committee of Secret Corres- 
pondence, Jan. 17, 1777, Wharton, II. 248; SMSS., No. 606. 
* T Franklin, Deane, and Lee to Vergennes, Wharton, II. 245-6. 
28 Note approved by the king, Jan. 9, Doniol, II. 120-2. 


lions from the king, who exacted only that the 
thing be kept secret. 29 

But if Vergennes thought thus to stop the 
mouths of the Americans, he soon learned his 
error. Congress' instructions did not at this date 
permit its envoys to offer France and Spain an 
alliance, only treaties of amity and commerce. 30 
On February 2nd, however, with the news before 
them of the preparation of Burgoyne's expedi- 
tion in England, the commissioners resolved to 
break through this limitation and to offer the two 
crowns a pledge that, if they became involved in 
war with Great Britain in consequence of making 
a treaty of amity and commerce with the States, 
the latter would not conclude a separate peace. 

* 76., 266 ; Wharton, II. 247, 250 fn., 404-5. It must be understood, 
of course, that until the declaration of the Treaty of Amity and 
Commerce, in Mar., 1778, all of the intercourse of the commis- 
sioners and the Foreign Office was guarded from publicity with 
the greatest care. Certain precautions were, in fact, taken against 
the Americans themselves, even after they were admitted to the 
general secret, for it was not impossible, of course, that France 
might eventually find it convenient to clear her skirts of rebel- 
lious associations. "No written proof of the least importance," 
says Deane, "was ever left in our hands. Even M. Gerard's 
letters appointing occasional interviews with us were always without 
any signature; though five hundred thousand livres were quarterly 
[in 1777] paid to our banker from the Royal Treasury, not the 
smallest evidence of the source from whence that subsidy came 
was permitted to remain in our power." Deane Papers, IV. 373. 

30 Journals of the Continental Congress (Ed. W. C. Ford, suc- 
ceeded by G. Hunt, Washington, 1904 ff., 25 vols., covering the 
years 1774-82, still in progress), V. 768, 813, ff., the Instructions 
of Sept. 24, 1776. 


This decision, moreover, was speedily confirmed 
by new instructions from Congress authorizing 
"any tenders necessary" to secure the immediate 
assistance of the Bourbon powers. The result 
was renewed activity on the part of the commis- 
sion, and of a much more ambitious sort. 31 On 
March 18th Deane sent Vergennes a plan of 
triple alliance between France, Spain, and the 
United States looking to an immediate war 
against England and Portugal. Hostilities were 
to continue till Spain had conquered Portugal, 
till the United States had established their inde- 
pendence, and till France and the United States 
had expelled England from the North American 
continent and the West Indies; and peace was 
to be concluded only by the joint consent of the 

A few days later Franklin laid a similar 
scheme before Aranda. 32 The Spaniard was en- 
thusiastic, Vergennes cold. "Considering," the 
latter inquired of the former, "the condition of 
lassitude and division in which this people is at 
present, what security could we have that our 
diversion would not produce their defection, espe- 
cially if, as no doubt would be the case, they were 
offered their independence?" 33 Meantime Lee, 
having at the instigation of Aranda set out for 

M Wharton, II. 257, 260 and footnote; Harrison et al. to the 
Commissioners, Dec. 30, 1776, ib., 240. 

'"Doniol, II. 319-22; Deane Papers, II. 25-7; SMSS., No. 659. 
83 Vergennes to Aranda, Apr. 10, Doniol, II. 325. 


Madrid with the idea of approaching the Spanish 
court directly, had been met at Burgos by Gri- 
maldi and turned back, though with pledges of 
further monetary aid, some of which were ulti- 
mately redeemed. 34 Of this phase of the episode 
the British ambassador was, however, of course 
ignorant. Seeing only that a rebel envoy had 
been denied the hospitality of Spanish soil, he 
promptly made the fact a theme for obvious 
comparisons unfavorable to France. 35 

But in less direct ways too did the American 
commissioners daily contribute to rendering the 
French government's equivocal position more and 
more precarious. The mere fact that they were 
in Paris created an ever thickening cloud of spec- 
ulation as to American prospects and English 
and French designs. It also brought thither the 
spies and secret agents both of the British gov- 
ernment and of the Whig opposition, whose busi- 
ness it was to watch the Americans, the French 
ministers, and each other. 36 The quite normal 
precipitate of such an atmosphere was all sorts of 
startling rumors, many of which were concerned 
with an alleged pending agreement between rep- 
resentatives of the British government and the 
American commissioners, granting the Colonies 
their independence and providing for the inevi- 

*/6., 195-6, 265-6; Wharton, II. 280-3. Of. ib., 148. 
* Vergennes to Ossum, Apr. 12, Doniol, II. 268. 
"See Wharton, I. Chs. 21 and 22. 


table joint attack upon the French West In- 
dies. 37 Vergennes received these rumors with a 
measure of scepticism. "We appreciate," he wrote, 
"how little probable it is that the English would 
confide so dangerous a secret into the keeping of 
their enemies as that of their hostile views toward 
France and Spain, and we are aware how great is 
the interest of the insurgents to create suspi- 
cion." 38 At the same time he recognized that 
France had not yet done enough for the Colonies 
"to secure their gratitude," 39 and he feared the 
import of the armaments which England was pre- 
paring. Indeed, at no time during the Revolu- 
tion do the hazards of France's equivocal position 
appear more substantial than at just this period. 
Yet at no time did Vergennes show himself more 
bent upon keeping the peace, and that notwith- 
standing the still belligerent temper of France's 

And meantime a fresh element of complexity 
was introduced into the situation through Frank- 
lin's activity in encouraging American privateers 
to resort to French harbors. Vergennes had from 
the first foreseen that difficulties would arise when 
American "corsairs" began seeking the hospital- 
ity of French waters and he had determined to 

97 Doniol, II. 319, 335-8 and fn., and 368-70. 
M /6., 257. 
**'Ib., 341. 


restrict them to the universally recognized right 
of asylum, that is the right to take refuge from 
adverse elements. But this meagre concession, 
which signified only that the French government 
did not accept the British view that they were 
pirates, was little satisfactory to the American 
vikings. What these individuals demanded was 
the right to equip, arm, and supply themselves in 
French ports, to bring their prizes there and sell 
them, to arm and equip once more and sally forth, 
in short, the right to make the French coast a 
base of operations against English shipping. In 
vain did Vergennes point out how entirely incom- 
patible such demands were, not only with His 
Most Christian Majesty's treaty obligations, but 
with the Law of Nations itself; for these were 
a thick-skinned gentry, who well understood 
that hard words break no bones and with whom 
measures to be effective had to be drastic. The 
resultant dilemma personified itself in the bland 
Franklin and the insistent Stormont. Franklin 
professed to accept Vergennes' legal principles 
but was endlessly resourceful in concocting delays 
to blunt their practical application. Stormont 
was unremittingly vigilant of results. 39 

* In general, see Hale, Franklin in France, I. ch. 7. Also, the 
correspondence between the English and French government; 
Doniol, II. 334-5, 478-9 and 504-19; and between Vergennes and 
the commissioners, ib., 520-22 (translated in Wharton, II. 364-6). 
See also index to SMSS. under "Conyngham," "Wickes," "Dolphin," 
"Lexington," "Reprisal." 


By the middle of July, the "corsair" issue had 
become so acute that it was clearly necessary for 
the French government to cease drifting and take 
its bearings once more. Meantime, and this was 
the one material result of the policy of delay, the 
French marine had reached a plane from which 
substantial parity with the British marine was 
within easy reach. In a memoir communicated to 
the king on July 23rd, Vergennes, contending 
that the moment had arrived when France must 
resolve "either to abandon America or to aid her 
courageously and effectively," pronounced with 
eloquence and fervor for a close alliance with her. 
The document is worthy of a brief resume. 

The primary question, Vergennes declared, 
was whether France and Spain could afford to 
see the colonies return either directly or indirectly 
to British control; and that question turned 
on the further one, whether it was sound policy to 
contribute to the strength of an enemy when op- 
portunity offered to enfeeble that enemy. Eng- 
land was the natural rival of the House of 
Bourbon. Mistress again of North America and 
its immense resources of all sorts, she would be a 
menace to the possessions of the two crowns in 
that part of the world. It followed that the re- 
union of North America and Great Britain, in 
whatever manner brought about, could not be 
indifferent either to the security, the prosperity, 

*Doniol, II. 460-69. 


or the glory of the two crowns and that no pains 
must be spared to prevent it. 41 Secret aid had 
been well enough in its day, but it was no longer 
sufficient to prevent the reconciliation of the col- 
onies and the mother-country, especially since the 
charge was now made by the English that the 
policy of France and Spain was to destroy Eng- 
land by means of America and America by means 
of England. It was necessary, in short, that the 
assistance rendered the Americans be sufficient to 
assure their total separation from Great Britain 
and their gratitude to the House of Bourbon. 
Open assistance undoubtedly meant war. But 
war was probably imminent anyway, since if 
Great Britain failed in the current campaign to 
reduce the rebels, she would make an accommo- 
dation with them and then with their assistance 
would fall upon France and Spain. 42 No doubt 
the magnanimity and religion of the two mon- 
archs made repugnant to them the thought of 
profiting by the circumstances in which England 
found herself to give her influence a mortal blow. 
But in diplomacy self-interest was the major 
force, and in politics the same maxim held as in 
war, that it was better to anticipate than to be 
anticipated., Besides, let their majesties con- 
sider whether their flags were respected, their 
commerce free, whether, in fact, their vessels were 

"76., 461. 
43 76., 462-3. 


not subject from the moment they left home 
waters, to humiliating visitations, odious seizures, 
unjust confiscations. 43 What the situation called 
for was a close offensive and defensive alliance 
with the Americans, all parties to which should 
be bound not to abandon the war without the con- 
sent of the others. The American commissioners 
should be informed of the intentions of the two 
crowns at once; but at any rate decisive steps 
could not be delayed later than January or Feb- 
ruary, when the British Parliament would meet 
to determine the fate of the present ministry. 
Fortunately, the European situation was in every 
way favorable to a joint enterprise by the two 
crowns against England. Spain's difficulty with 
Portugal was on the way to settlement, and a 
war on the sea would not spread to the Continent. 
From such a war, it was possible that the two 
crowns would not derive every advantage they 
could hope for, but to succeed in breaking the 
chain between England and America would for- 
ever be an immense advantage. 44 

The memoir was approved by the king the 
same day, and three days later was despatched to 
Ossun, Louis' ambassador at Madrid, to be sub- 
mitted by him to the Spanish crown. 45 Why 
then, the question at once arises, was not the 

76. 464-5. 
44 76., 467-9. 
* 76., 469. 


course it recommended promptly entered upon, 
at least by France? The answer is to be found in 
the altered attitude of Spain. Spain's desire 
for war during the latter half of 1776 and the 
early months of 1777 had rested almost alto- 
gether upon the prospect of having Portugal for 
her quarry. By July 23rd, however, as Vergen- 
nes himself noted, the contre-temps between the 
two Iberian courts was practically at an end. 
With a new monarch on the Portuguese throne, 
the warlike Pombal had fallen from power; and 
meantime the Spaniards under Ceballos had 
trounced the Portuguese forces along La Plata 
soundly. 46 But another factor, too, in bringing 
about the pending settlement had been Ver- 
gennes' constant opposition to the idea of Spain's 
overrunning her neighbor; and, as was now to 
transpire, he had therein overshot his mark. For 
with Portugal out of the calculation, Spain had 
no wish to fight England, and least of all in be- 
half of American independence. On the other 
hand, even Louis' assent to the program of July 
23rd was only a conditional one, the condition 
being Spanish cooperation. Until, therefore, 
either Spain could be brought to the support of 
this program or Louis could be persuaded that it 
was perilous for France longer to wait upon her 
ally, decisive action was impossible. 

/&., 432. 



Notwithstanding a close coincidence of race, 
religion, and economic interests, and the fact that 
they were ruled by the same House, the two 
branches of which were bound together in pre- 
sumably indissoluble alliance, the French and 
Spanish peoples of the eighteenth century were 
strongly disposed to mutual antipathy, not to say 
antagonism ; while between the Spanish and Eng- 
lish, particularly of the governing classes, there 
seems always to have been a considerable measure 
of reciprocal understanding and sympathy. 1 So 
long as Grimaldi, a Genoese by birth, had 
remained at the head of affairs at Madrid, Ver- 
gennes had not encountered the anti-Gallican 
prejudices of the court circle of the Escurial. 
But in February, 1777, Grimaldi had fallen from 
power and had been succeeded by a Spaniard of 

l See. Francois Rousseau, "Participation de 1'Espagne a la 
Guerre d'Amerique," Revue des Questions historiques, LXXII. 
444 ff. Note also Jay's observation: "They [the Spanish] appear 
to me to like the English, hate the French, and to have prejudices 
against us," Jay to the President of Congress, May 26, 1780, 
Wharton, III. 733. 


Spaniards, Don Jose Monino, the Count de 
Florida Blanca. 2 To be sure, the new minister 
promptly volunteered the assurance that he 
would base his policy on the maintenance of the 
Family Compact, and "the most perfect har- 
mony" between the two crowns; 3 but he also soon 
made it clear that in interpreting the alliance be- 
tween France and Spain, he would treat the 
interests of his own country as of quite as much 
importance as those of France and, furthermore, 
that he regarded these interests as strictly mater- 
ial. 4 Accordingly, whereas Grimaldi had ac- 
cepted Vergennes' contention that Spain as well 
as France had "much to gain from breaking down 
British power by effecting the complete and 
radical separation of the colonies," 3 Florida 
Blanca considered "the abasement of England" 
as without substantial interest to a nation whose 
Continental role was no longer worth restoring. 6 
Nor yet did Vergennes' notion of "a durable 
peace" to follow upon England's undoing appeal 
more strongly to him. These were "moral ob- 
jects," and he frankly characterized them as 

However, Vergennes also urged it as an 
argument for his program that the total separ- 

3 Doniol, II. 24-7, 197-8. 

8 Ossun to Vergennes, Feb. 24, 1777, ib., 227-8. 

4 See the correspondence cited in note 59, supra. 
Grimaldi to Aranda, Feb. 4, ib., 192-3. 

76., 703. Cf. ib., 567. 


ation of the American provinces from Great 
Britain would make for the security of French 
and Spanish colonial possessions in the Western 
Hemisphere, and he contended further that, inas- 
much as Spain's colonial empire in this part of the 
world was vastly more valuable than the few 
islands that still remained to France, Spain's in- 
terest in bringing about the separation in question 
was proportionately greater than France's. 7 
Again the Spanish minister's views diverged 
widely from those of his respondent. For while 
he was ready to admit that British sea-power was 
more or less of a menace to Spain's holdings in 
the New World and also that this power was sus- 
tained to an important extent by England's 
mastery of North America, he was not ready to 
conclude that therefore the independence of Eng- 
land's North American provinces would, so far as 
Spain was concerned, remove the danger. On the 
contrary, he held that it would, if due precautions 
were not taken, actually increase it. We are thus 
brought to a subject that must be of very con- 
trolling interest in the pages following. 

One of the earliest advocates of a French- 
Spanish-American alliance was the Count 
d'Aranda, the Spanish ambassador at Paris. 8 
Unhappily for the Colonies, Aranda was less a 
representative of his government than a Themis- 

r lb., 461, 643-4; III. 50-1, 140. 

8 See his memoir on the subject, loc. cit., II. 210-8. 


tocles in exile, a former chief -minister whom 
the existing regime at Madrid found it convenient 
to devise any plausible expedient to keep remote 
from the seat of power. So long as Grimaldi was 
Charles Ill's chief -minister, Madrid had been 
quite willing that Paris should make its own ar- 
rangements with the rebellious provinces, but 
even he had not favored Spain's doing more than 
to contribute secretly certain funds to the Ameri- 
can cause, of which he dexterously made France 
the almoner. And after Long Island his attitude 
became still more aloof. Writing Aranda as he 
was about to leave office, he admonished his too 
enthusiastic subordinate thus : 

The king our master, who possesses in the Indies 
domains so vast and important, should be very backward 
in making a formal treaty with provinces which as yet 
can only be regarded as rebels, an inconvenience that 
would not exist should the colonies succeed in really 
throwing off the yoke and constituting themselves an 
independent power. The rights of all sovereigns to their 
respective territories ought to be regarded as sacred, 
and the example of a rebellion is too dangerous to allow 
of His Majesty's wishing to assist it openly. 9 

How a little later he met the American Lee and 
turned him back at the Spanish frontier has al- 
ready been told. 

And if Grimaldi saw cause for alarm on Spain's 
part in the rebellious example of the Americans, 

76., 192. 


the Marquis de Castejon, a member of the Span- 
ish royal council, saw it no less in their actual 
power and their supposed ambitions. "Spain," 
said Castejon, writing also in February, 1777, "is 
about to be left alone, face to face with one other 
power in the whole of North America, a power 
which has assumed a national name, which is very 
formidable on account of the size of its population 
and the ratio of increase thereof, and which is 
accustomed to war even before it has begun it. I 
think that we should be the last country in all 
Europe to recognize any sovereign and indepen- 
dent state in North America." Such a state 
would develop more rapidly than a colony, would 
have its resources immediately at hand, would be 
uninfluenced by the Balance of Power, and so, 
careless of the good will of Europe, would be able 
to push its own designs with the utmost aggres- 
siveness. Furthermore, even assuming the 
English colonies in America to have become inde- 
pendent, "the English and American powers 
would still be of one nation, one character and one 
religion, and would so form their treaties and 
compacts as to obtain the objects they both de- 
sire." In such a contingency "the kingdom of 
Mexico would be compromised, in fact lost." 10 

But indeed the Foreign Office had been forced 
to meet and allay opinions of this sort even from 
French sources from the very outset of the Revo- 

10 Sparks MSS., CII. The date of the document is Feb. 3, 1777. 


lution. Thus in the Reflexions of November, 
1775, Gerard had recited: "But, they say, the 
independence of the English colonies will prepare 
a revolution in the new world; they will hardly 
be at peace and assured of their liberty than they 
will be seized with the spirit of conquest, whence 
may result the invasion of our colonies and of the 
rich possessions of the Spanish in South Amer- 
ica." In answer to these objections Gerard had 
urged two considerations: first, that the existing 
war would fatigue the colonists for a long time 
to come; and secondly, that if they became inde- 
pendent, the colonists would have a republican 
form of government and would be united with 
each other only in a loose confederacy. The dom- 
inant spirit of the new community, he had there- 
fore concluded, would be one of trade, industry, 
and peace; and he had added: "Even supposing 
that the colonists should encroach upon the Span- 
ish possessions, that is far from proving that this 
revolution would be prejudicial to France." 11 

In July, 1777, however, Vergennes had before 
him the direct task of reassuring Spanish opinion ; 
and it is entirely evident that he had underesti- 
mated its difficulty. There are those, he wrote in 
the memoir of July 23rd, who hold that the time 
will come when America will be "a formidable 

u Doniol, I. 245. See also a passage in the "Considerations," 16., 
274. For further arguments against Spain's favoring American 
independence, forthcoming from English sources, see Wharton, 
III. 727-31. 


power even to her benefactors." The danger 
surely was greatly exaggerated. Doubtless 
America would in time become a considerable na- 
tion, but certainly never "a terror to be armed 
against." For one thing, their constitution stood 
in the way of such a consummation. For they 
were held together only by a confederacy of thir- 
teen members, each of which reserved its powers 
of internal administration. Furthermore, the in- 
terests of the several provinces were as diverse as 
their climate; and particularly striking were the 
differences between North and South. The South, 
with its sparse population and with the cultivation 
of its soil abandoned to negroes, was bound to 
have commerce for its informing principle. The 
North, it was true, furnished with abundant pop- 
ulation living in frugality, might well breed a 
spirit of emigration and conquest; but its atten- 
tion in turn would be occupied with Canada, 
which to that end should remain in the hands of 
the English. Also 

many years, not to say ages, must pass, ere the New 
Englanders have occupied effectively all the lands which 
still remain for them to cultivate and before therefore 
they will have a superabundant population which they 
will want to be rid of ; and ere that time shall have come 
our vices will have been introduced among them by more 
intimate intercourse, with the result of having retarded 
their increase and progress. 12 

Ib., II. 466. 


The argument was ingenious but to Florida 
Blanca, who participated to the fullest extent in 
the apprehensions that had been voiced by Cas- 
te j on, it was quite unconvincing. The Spanish 
minister's program, while the dispute with Portu- 
gal was still unsettled, had been that the struggle 
in America should be kept going till the parties to 
it were exhausted; meantime France and Spain 
should increase their forces in the West Indies; 
then when the moment arrived, they should inter- 
vene between England and her rebellious prov- 
inces, with the object of filching from the occasion 
such profits as might be available, perhaps the 
Floridas for Spain and Canada for France. 13 
And in August, 1777, the Spanish minister was of 
opinion that the time was not yet at hand for any 
course of action likely to precipitate war with 
England, and he was especially averse to the sug- 
gestion of an alliance with the Americans: For 
one thing, the Spanish treasure fleet from Mexico 
would not arrive until spring, and it would never 
do to tempt British cupidity with that. For an- 
other thing, for the two crowns to declare them- 
selves in behalf of the Colonies would be to 
furnish England with the best possible argu- 
ment for coming to an accommodation with them 
at once. Finally Spain had not yet had an oppor- 
tunity to build up a sufficient casus belli against 
the English, to give, that is, her multiplied causes 

13 76., 264, 273-4. 


of complaint that fair appearance of consistency 
that decency demanded. Meantime, however, it 
would be pertinent, with a view to preventing the 
reconciliation of England and the Colonies, to per- 
suade the latter, through Franklin and Deane, 
and also through envoys to the Congressional 
chiefs, that any accommodation with the mother- 
country would be useless which was not guaran- 
teed by France and Spain. "We can assure the 
deputies at the outset that we would not sanction 
anything contrary to the liberty and advantage 
of the Colonies, and that they would be protected 
in these respects, without saying more for the 
present." Surely the Americans could not with- 
stand such an inducement. 14 

Obviously balked in his own design by the 
specious intransigency of the Spaniard, Ver- 
gennes, in his despatch to Ossun, of August 22nd 
indicated the willingness of Paris, for the nonce at 
least, to follow in the wake of Madrid: "We ad- 
mit, Monsieur, without abbreviation, the hypothe- 
sis of the Spanish minister, that before thinking of 
a rupture we should make sure of the return of 
our own fishermen and of the fleet from Mexico." 
Meanwhile, it would be appropriate for the two 
powers to send secret envoys to America, charged 
with "brief, indirect hints" as to the advantage 

14 "Traduction du Mmoire de la cour d'Espagne du 8 aoust 
1776 [sic] servant de reponse a celui de la cour de France, envoy< 
le 26 Juillet meme annee,". 6., 490-3. 


that the colonies would gain if, when procuring 
England's recognition of their independence, they 
should also obtain "the recognition and guaranty 
thereof of the European states most interested in 
sustaining it." True, it did appear somewhat im- 
probable that the American deputies in Paris 
could be brought round to this view. "Ready 
enough to enter into the closest kind of union if 
the two crowns would consent to war, they are 
apparently determined to decline any other sort 
of diplomatic connection," and "I have had more 
than one occasion to observe that their art looks 
not only to interesting us in their cause, but also 
to compromising us with England." "Still, I will 
throw out some words to them of a guaranty, and 
if they refuse to nibble at that bait, I have an- 
other idea . . . namely, to make them compre- 
hend that it would not be enough to obtain from 
England a recognition of their independence 
without taking steps at the same time to establish 
its permanence," and that the measure best cal- 
culated to that end would be treaties of amity and 
commerce with the powers most interested in 
seeing them free and prosperous. 15 

But before any action could be taken along this 
line, opportunity presented itself for Vergennes 
to press afresh for open war with England. The 
very day the French secretary penned his des- 
patch to Ossun, an unaccredited agent of the 

15 Vergennes to Ossun, Aug. 22, ib., 500-3. 


British government named Forth announced to 
Maurepas the intention of his government to ob- 
lige France, under pain of war, to return to their 
British owners all prizes brought into French 
ports by American vessels. 16 The day following 
Vergennes presented the king a memoir vigor- 
ously protesting against compliance with such a 
demand. To do so, he argued, would be tanta- 
mount to stigmatizing the American privateers, 
and their countrymen as well, as pirates and sea- 
robbers ; and the result of that would be to arouse 
resentment in America that would lead at once to 
reconciliation with England and "a desire for 
vengeance that ages perhaps would not diminish." 
It would be in entire accord with his dignity for 
the king to make some concessions, and policy 
demanded it on account of the absence of the 
Spanish treasure fleet. The orders against the 
admission of American privateers and their 
prizes to French harbors except in "absolutely 
urgent cases" could be renewed, and such pri- 
vateers as were already in port could be sent 
away, without however the time of their depar- 
ture being fixed. But more than this could not 
be conceded. "A great state can undergo losses 
without suffering in its reputation, but if it sub- 
scribes to humiliations, it is undone." As to "an 
assurance of the possessions of the two crowns 
in America," for apparently Forth had sug- 

1- I6., 525-6. 


gested some such idea, that would be both un- 
profitable and useless. "It would tie our hands 
so that we should be unable to put ourselves in a 
state of defense" and arm our enemy with a club 
with which he could always extort some new 
compliance. 17 

The memoir received the approval both of king 
and council the same day, and three days later a 
second despatch was sent Ossun to acquaint him 
with the new turn of affairs. It was accompanied 
by a letter in Vergennes' own hand to Florida 
Blanca, which, recounting that "a new order of 
things" had most surprisingly intervened since 
the previous communication, indicated the opin- 
ion that it was touch and go as between war and 
peace, but promised that every precaution which 
wisdom could suggest would be taken "to avoid 
if possible that the first blow should be too sen- 
sible." 18 Four days later, the secretary wrote 
Noailles, at London, that "the British ministry, 
despairing of subjugating the Americans . . . 
will seek to direct the passions of the nation 
against an object more capable of inflaming them, 
which object can only be France and Spain," 19 

But again the complexion of affairs suddenly 
altered. Not only did Stormont fail to back up 
Forth's representations, but what is more to the 

"76., 527-9; SMSS., No. 706. 

18 76., 534-5. 

76., 536-7. See also to., 526-9, 533-5. 


point, the news now came to Paris of Burgoyne's 
capture of Ticonderoga. 20 As after Long 
Island Vergennes' anxiety as to the ultimate in- 
tentions of the British ministry underwent nota- 
ble surcease. Florida Blanca was quick to 
detect the French secretary's vacillation and the 
opportunity offered for a homily against Amer- 
ican wiles. The shaft struck home, for with the 
advance of Burgoyne through northern New 
York, further disconcerting intelligence had 
come from London. His despatch of September 
26th shows the secretary of state in full retreat, 
though with an arrow or two still in his quiver: 
The Spanish minister had rightly judged that 
Forth's mission was not to be taken seriously, but 
what then was to be expected of a government 
that lent itself to such pranks in the midst of a 
civil war! France would give the preference to 
peace, of that Spain could be assured, and the 
more so as the moment had passed when by strik- 
ing at England she could have guaranteed suc- 
cess to the revolution in America. No doubt the 
attention of France and Spain ought to be di- 
rected to winning the confidence of the Ameri- 
cans without entirely forfeiting that of the 
English but the task would not be an easy one, 
especially since the English government at least 
was well aware of what it was for the interest 
of the two crowns to do, while the Americans on 

39 Ib., 537, 572 fn., 628. 


the other hand were inconsiderately disposed to 
look at everything from the point of view of their 
own advantage. 21 

And what precisely was the attitude of the 
Americans at this juncture? Earlier in the year 
it had been their tactics to keep before Vergennes 
the possibility that, unless France promptly es- 
poused their cause, the Colonies, "dispirited by 
bad success," 22 might be forced to accept terms 
from England that would be to the serious dis- 
advantage of France. 23 But these methods, if 
they had not actually injured the American case 
by making the secretary sceptical of the substance 
and durability of the Revolution, 24 had at least 
netted nothing, and after Ticonderoga the com- 
missioners discarded them. Evidence of this fact 
is to be seen in their letter of September 25th to 
Vergennes and Aranda, to beg a subsidy of the 
two crowns or their friendly offices in a negotia- 
tion for peace, with a view to saving to America 
her "liberties with the freedom of commerce :" 

21 16., 551-4. 

22 See Carmichael to Vergennes, SMSS., No. 647. The date is 
illegible save for the year, 1777, but it was clearly written before 
the news of Saratoga. 

23 See Wharton, II. 280-3; Deane Papers, I. 434-42, II. 52-6, 66-9; 
and the memorial prepared early in 1777 by Franklin, Deane, and 
the Abb Niccoli, SMSS., Nos. 149 and 150. This document was 
communicated to Lord Suffolk by the British spy Wentworth and 
was later quoted by Pownall on the floor of Parliament. See 
SMSS., No. 182, and Parliamentary History, XIX. 930 ff. 

24 See p. 67 supra. 


They [the commissioners, the letter proceeds] can 
assure Your Excellencies that they have no account of 
any treaty on foot in America for an accommodation, 
nor do they believe there is any. Nor have any propo- 
sitions been made by them to the court of London, nor 
any the smallest overture received from thence which 
they have not already communicated; . . . and the 
commissioners are firmly of the opinion that nothing 
will induce the Congress to accommodate on the terms 
of an exclusive commerce with Britain but the despair 
of obtaining effectual aid and support from Europe. 25 

On October 3rd Vergennes proposed that 
France and Spain should each pledge the Colon- 
ies three millions livres on condition that they 
should enter into no negotiation with Great Bri- 
tain without the joint approval of the two crowns. 
Raisons de finance, he admitted, were apparently 
opposed on this occasion to raisons de politique, 
but, he contended, in appearance only, since if 
England were enfeebled by the loss of America 
both France and Spain would enjoy peace for 
many years. 26 But Florida Blanca was not to be 
persuaded ; and on November 7th, Vergennes an- 

"SMSS., No. 1698. See also Lee's "Journal" in R. H. Lee's 
Life of Arthur Lee, I. 354. On November 27, Deane proposed that 
the commissioners demand "a categorical answer" from France. 
"Dr. Franklin," Lee writes, "was of a different opinion: he would 
not consent to state that we must give up the contest without 
their interposition, because the effect of such a declaration upon 
them was uncertain. It might be taken as a menace, it might make 
them abandon us in despair, or anger. Besides, he did not think 
it true." Lee agreed with Franklin. 

"See Doniol, II. 564, 570, 575-8. 


nounced that Louis had determined to give the 
United States three millions outright, to be paid 
quarterly. 27 Some days later, the Foreign Office 
instructed one Holker to proceed to America to 
sound Congress on the question of a French- 
Spanish guaranty along the lines originally sug- 
gested by Madrid. The instructions were never 
carried out. On November 30th, the news of 
Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga reached 
Nantes, and M. Holker became the first emissary 
to America of a new and decisive policy. 28 

"Ib., 579-80. But word of this decision was apparently not 
communicated to the commissioners till after November 30, as 
no mention is made of it in their report to Congress of that date, 
Wharton, II. 433-6. And cf. ib., 445. 

K Ib., 615-6 and notes; SMSS., No. 1748. Holker late became 
the first French consul at Philadelphia. 



Vergennes' first reaction to the news of Sara- 
toga was that it meant American independence 
and that the problem presented to France by it 
was whether she could beat Great Britain out in 
according recognition of the fact. "The power," 
he wrote Montmorin, "that will first recognize 
the independence of the Americans will be the 
one that will reap the fruits of this war." 1 Later 
he revised this estimate: Absolute independence 
would probably cost the pride of the British mon- 
arch too much, but even so, what guaranty was 

1 Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 11, Doniol, II. 632; SMSS., 
No. 1769. The words are taken from Beaumarchais' extremely 
alarmist letter of the same date to Vergennes: The ministry, he 
writes, are denounced in London, the opposition triumphs, secret 
councils multiply, Ireland prepares to rise. What is the meaning? 
"It is that of the two nations, England and France, the first who 
recognizes American independence will alone gather from it all 
the fruits, whilst the independence will be certainly fatal to the 
one that allows its rival to take the lead": SMSS., No. 1768. The 
letter will also be found in Doniol, II. 684. Vergennes' recogni- 
tion of the decisive character of Saratoga was delayed somewhat 
on account of the exultant tone assumed by the British government 
and its ambassador over the news of Howe's capture of Philadel- 
phia and Washington's defeat at Brandy wine: op. cit., 620-4, and 


there that the Americans, wearied by the war 
and discouraged by the indifference of Eu- 
rope, would not consent to waive the name if 
they were given the substance? At any rate, 
some sort of reconciliation of the mother-country 
and her rebellious provinces impended and with 
it the menace of a joint attack by the English 
and Americans on France and Spain. The suc- 
cor given the insurgents by the two crowns would 
furnish from the British point of view a suffi- 
cient pretext and the rehabilitation of the French 
and Spanish navies a sufficient grievance. In 
such a war, New York would furnish the English 
a port of embarkment for the French posses- 
sions ; the American corsairs would enrich them- 
selves by falling upon French and Spanish com- 
merce ; the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi 
would be a powerful lure to the Americans, and 
in their hands would render the possession of 
Mexico precarious, because, protected by the 
British navy, the colonists would have nothing to 
fear from the vengeance of France or Spain on 
the American continent. There could not be the 
least doubt in the world that such a program 
would be carried through were it not for His 
Britannic Majesty's squeamishness in the matter 
of independence. Thanks to that, the House 
of Bourbon had its opportunity. 2 

2 Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 27, Doniol, II., 665-6; "Memoire 
lu au Roi," Jan. 7, 1778, #>., 724-5; Vergennes to Montmorin, par 
1'Epine, Jan. 8, ib., 719-20; SMSS., Nos. 1805, 1824, 1826. 


A question touched upon at the beginning of 
this volume becomes at this point of renewed 
interest, that of Vergennes' intention in urging 
the above argument for his crown's intervention 
in the American revolt. Immediately, of course, 
his intention is to present the war which this act 
of intervention will probably bring in its wake 
as essentially a war of self-defense on France's 
part, rather than one of aggression, or, to use 
his own terms, as "a war of necessity" rather than 
"of choice"; and were he thus making, for a 
policy already determined upon, the usual con- 
cession to "the decent opinion of mankind," his 
words would call for little comment. But in fact 
he is doing something quite different. He is argu- 
ing for the adoption of a proposed policy, and 
on that account it becomes important to inquire 
with some particularity whether this argument 
was a sound one, whether it was probable, was 
sustained by credible evidence, was consistently 
adherred to. In the pages immediately following 
I shall canvass these questions. 

Certainly the theory that England, defeated in 
America, would attack France and Spain had not 
gained in intrinsic probability in the three years 
that had elapsed since it was first broached. Then 
the weakness of the French and Spanish fleets 
had presented British naval aggressiveness an 
obvious temptation; now, by the statement of 
Vergennes himself, this weakness had been re- 
paired and Bourbon naval power had become 


matter for alarm on England's part. 3 Then the 
name of Chatham and his monumental hatred of 
the House of Bourbon had given viability to the 
most disturbing speculations; now it was recog- 
nized by the French Foreign Office itself, as at 
least highly probable, that the North ministry 
would continue as the instrument of His Britan- 
nic Majesty's American policies. 4 Then it was 
plausible to argue that the colonies could yet be 
drawn off from their pursuit of independence by 
the ancient lure of an attack on France, and the 
anticipated assault upon the French Antilles had 
accordingly been pictured as the first step to 
reconciliation between England and America. 
Now it had to be conceded by all that indepen- 
dence was the paramount objective of the Ameri- 
cans, with the result that this hypothetical assault 
had to be presented as the outcome of reconcilia- 
tion. 5 But in this connection, Vergennes is fur- 

3 See also Vergennes' comments quoted infra on Lord Sand- 
wich's review in Parliament of the British naval situation; note, 
further, the following words in the Expost des Motifs of the 
French government (1779): "It is notorious that the armaments 
of France were in a condition to act offensively long before those 
of England were prepared," Animal Register, XXII. 394. 

4 There was no possibility of Chatham's being called to power at 
this period. Even after France had declared the Treaty of 
Amity and Commerce with the United States, we find George III 
asserting that "nothing shall bring me to treat personally with 
Lord Chatham"; and again, that "no consideration in life shall 
make me stoop to Opposition." Donne, Correspondence of George 
HI, II. 149, 153. 

See especially Doniol, II. 664 and 727. 


ther citable for the admission, as we have just 
observed, that England would not even yet offer 
the Americans complete independence, that she 
would insist upon retaining at least a nominal 
sovereignty over them. The question thus 
emerges whether it was reasonable to suppose that 
the Americans would consent, in return for less 
than independence, to join in an assault on the 
possessions of France and Spain. It was not im- 
probable that the Colonies, weary of war, would 
finally content themselves with less than inde- 
pendence, if France did not come to their aid, but 
it was most unlikely that they would do so with 
any great alacrity or precipitancy; and just in 
proportion as the necessity of peace was a motive 
with them was it unlikely that they would embark 
upon war in another quarter for a comparatively 
minor object, and particularly when, in the pur- 
suit of such object, they would alienate the only 
powers that had befriended them and whose en- 
mity would leave them henceforth to face alone 
a still wrathful mother-country. 6 

Nor when I pass in review the evidence offered 
by Vergennes in support of his alarmist theory, 

Vergennes himself admitted that any arrangement between 
England and America would "not be the affair of a day," ib. t 
738-9, fn. In his despatch to Montmorin of Dec. 13, the secretary 
gives it as his own opinion that the commissioners prefer a 
coalition with the two crowns to a reconciliation with England: 
i6., 639. See also the Congressional resolutions of Nov. 22, 1777, 
and the commissioners' letter of Dec. 8 to Vergennes, Wharton, 
II. 425-6 and 444-5; also, pp. 117-9, supra. 


am I better convinced of its substance. First I 
shall consider some items of a comparatively 
trustworthy sort that bear on the question of 
what terms England would be likely to offer 
America and America be likely to accept. Then 
I shall turn to some items that demand more 
careful scrutiny. 

Vergennes knew from his confidential agents 
of the visit to Franklin of an Englishman named 
Hutton, reputed to be a friend of the English 
king; 7 and he observed that Franklin remained 
reticent about the matter. 8 This circumstance, 
however, was plausibly explained to him by 
Chaumont, one of the above-mentioned agents, as 
due to Franklin's reluctance to prejudice an old 
acquaintance with the English court, 9 and we find 
the secretary himself testifying at this very time 
to his confidence in Franklin's loyalty and good 
faith. 10 Again, he had before him two letters 
which had been shown him by the American com- 
missioners and which he considered so important 
that he forwarded copies of them to Madrid. In 
the first of these, the writer, a citizen of Boston, 
seems to have advanced the idea that unless 
France and Spain evinced a disposition to come 
to the assistance of the colonies, at least in a 
financial way, Burgoyne's victory could be turned 

T Doniol, II. 771-2. 

76., 718. 

"See Note 113, supra. 

10 Vergennes to Noailles, Dec. 27, Doniol, II. 657, footnote. 


to best account by getting as favorable terms as 
possible from England. 11 In the other one, 
which had been sent from London to a secret 
agent of the commissioners named Bancroft, the 
anonymous writer foreshadowed the intention of 
the North ministry to bestow something like au- 
tonomy on the colonies for their internal affairs, 
while retaining control of their external relations, 
political and commercial. 12 Lastly, he knew 
from Deane that an Englishman named Went- 
worth had visited this commissioner and, suggest- 
ing a truce for America, had proposed that the 
envoys send one of their number either to Eng- 
land or up into the Netherlands, to meet there an 
Englishman of high rank and negotiate a recon- 
ciliation on the basis of a qualified dependency; 
but he knew also that Deane had met these prop- 
ositions with a demand for unconditional inde- 
pendence, and that the Englishman had in turn 
pronounced the latter demand unallowable. 13 

But obviously this evidence is quite insufficient 
to justify Vergennes' assertion in the memoir of 

"Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 11, ib., 634. The content of 
the letter is further revealed by Florida Blanca's comments upon 
it in his despatch to Aranda of Dec. 23rd, ib., 769. 

"SMSS., Nos. 1787 and 1805; Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 
27, Doniol, II. 664-5. For some interesting speculations as to 
Bancroft's real character, see Wharton, I. 621-41. 

"Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 19, ib., 661-2; SMSS., No. 
1786. See also Beaumarchais to Vergennes, Doniol, loc. cit., 685-6. 
Went worth was a spy and stock-jobber in whom George III pro- 
fessed small confidence, Donne, Correspondence, II. 109. 


January 7th, which immediately preceded the 
king's sanction of an alliance with the United 
States, that the English government "already 
. . . displays to them [the American envoys] the 
certain advantages of a coalition against France 
and Spain," 14 and still less, if possible, does it 
prove that the English government was likely to 
achieve anything by such tactics. It is true that, 
in making this assertion, the secretary pleads that 
"the particulars are too long to detail," though 
he says the king knows them. 15 But the fact is 
that both on this occasion and on earlier ones 
Vergennes does cite numerous "particulars," 16 
which it is fair to conclude are the most cogent 
ones for his purpose ; and while, of course, we do 
not know what matters Vergennes reported orally 
to the king, 17 we do have both the elaborate 
memoir upon which the royal council based its 
decision in favor of an American alliance and also 
the extended correspondence with Madrid at this 

"Doniol, II. 723. The statement is repeated in the "Precis of 
Facts relative to the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce," which 
was read to the Council Mar. 18, SMSS., No. 1904. 

15 76., 724. 

"The fact of the matter is that he straightway contradicts the 
words just quoted, in his confidential letter of the day following 
to Montmorin, where he writes: "J'espere que ce prince [the king 
of Spain] nous jugera favorablement lors qu'il aura peze" les raisons 
exposees dans le mmoire et la dpeche que vous recevrez par 
ce courier." Doniol, II. 736. For the memoire and despatch re- 
ferred to, see ib., 717-38. 

17 "Le Roi ... a entendu mon raport particulier, a garde les 
pieces, a examin le pour et le contre": Vergennes to Montmorin, 
"Prive," Jan. 8: ib., 736; SMSS., No. 1828. 


period; and we may, I submit, reasonably believe 
that the evidence intended for the eyes of the 
Spanish king and for the critical scrutiny of the 
Spanish minister was at least as convincing in 
character as that which, supplemented by the per- 
sonal presence and eloquence of the French secre- 
tary, persuaded the well-intentioned but stupid 
Louis of "the moral certainty of peril." 18 

We turn, then, to consider this additional evi- 
dence, if "evidence" it may be called; and first 
we note the kind of sources from which it issued. 
So far as is discoverable, Vergennes' informants, 
with the single exception of the French ambassa- 
dor at London, were either professional alarmists 
whose practical interests were already enlisted 
with the American cause men like Beaumar- 
chais, Chaumont, and Grand or the mere anony- 
mous voices of rumor, as witness his repeated 
"on Ait." From such sources as these it is that the 
statement finds its way into the secretary's de- 
spatches, that the Howes have been instructed 
to open negotiations with Congress, 19 that a 

18 "Ce n'est point 1'influence de ses ministres qui 1'ont decide; 
Tevidence des faits, la certitude morale du danger et sa conviction 
1'ont seuls entrain^," loc. cit. To the same effect is the letter of 
Louis to Charles, Jan. 8, ib., 713-4. 

"Vergennes to Montmorin, "P.S., Dec. 15, ib., 649: "Ce 
qu'on [N. B.] a recueilli de plus positif est, que des instructions 
ont 6te envoyees aux freres Howe pour entamer une negociation 
en Amerique." But compare with this the cautious tone of his 
despatch to Noailles five days later: "Des ordres de reconciliation 
doivent avoir ei6 envoyes tres rcemment a M. Howe," ib., 704. For 


special courier has been sent to America, 20 that 
Lord George Germaine's secretary is in Paris to 
treat with the commissioners, 21 that Franklin's 
attitude of silence with reference to Hutton is 
matter for suspicion, 22 that the first steps have 
been taken in London toward the formation of a 
coalition ministry of which Chatham and Shel- 
burne are to be members, 23 that at Passy "they 
are negotiating briskly" 24 and finally, that "one 
formal proposition is to unite cordially and fall 
upon us." 25 Ordinarily, it is true, the secre- 
tary discloses through what channels he ob- 
tained his information; but that fact does not 
hinder his arguing on the basis of it without allow- 
ance for its source, nor yet from sinning 
against the light shed by more reliable sources. 

a later rumor that General Howe had arrived at terms of recon- 
ciliation with Washington, see Wharton, II. 483. This rumor was 
of too late date to find a place in the despatches. 

^Doniol, II. 647. 

31 Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 13, "au soir" ib., 645, footnote 
2: "D'une autre part le Lord Germaine . . . envoye, dit on 
[N. B.], ici son secretaire pour traiter avec les Americains." 

23 Same to same, Jan. 8, ib., 718, following Grand's alarmist 
account of the matter, ib., 771. 

"Same reference as note 21, supra. 

**Same reference as note 22. The source of this item, which 
Vergennes himself says did not influence his decision, was Frank- 
lin and Deane's landlord at Passy, who was in Vergennes' pay. 
Sparks MSS., LXXVIII. p. 139. 

"Doniol, II. 649. The "inconnu" was Wentworth, whose prof- 
fers were reported by Deane to Vergennes a day or two later as 
impossible, since they did not include unconditional independence, 
supra, p. 127. 


The person best entitled, both by length of offi- 
cial experience and by first-hand knowledge, to 
claim something like authority for his conclusions 
was the Marquis de Noailles, Louis' ambassador 
at the court of St. James, and indeed Vergennes 
himself pays striking tribute to the reliability 
cf Noailles' reports. 26 Yet it is plainly not the 
policy of the secretary to put forward the ambas- 
sador's communications except so far as they can 
be wrought into the fabric of his own alarmist 
theory. Thus Noailles points out that there can 
be no binding negotiations between the British 
executive and the Americans till Parliament shall 
have repealed certain statutes. Vergennes, with- 
out citing Noailles, repeates the observation in his 
despatches to Montmorin but accompanies it with 
the conjecture that it will be the policy of the 
British ministry to solicit overtures from the 
Americans as a basis for propositions to be laid 
before Parliament. Again, Noailles always im- 
plies that the North ministry will survive. This 
conclusion, too, Vergennes seems generally to 
accept ; but he pits against it the contention that 
North and his associates now participate in the 
Opposition's way of thinking. 27 Again, Noailles 
assures his government that North will not and 

" Same reference as note 21. 

27 Unfortunately, what "the Opposition's way of thinking" was 
is by no means clear. See note below. As used by Vergennes 
this phrase signified what was for the most part a figment of his 
imagination or calculation. 


cannot offer the Americans their independence. 
That is quite probable, rejoins the secretary, but 
the real danger lies in the possibility that the 
Americans will take less. At this point, however, 
the divergence between the secretary and the am- 
bassador becomes flat contradiction, for Noailles, 
like Florida Blanca and Montmorin, is confident 
throughout that the Americans will never take 
less. 28 

Vergennes is determined, in short, that every- 
thing shall be grist to his mill. Unfortunately, 
there are times when his heroic endeavors to make 
it such hedge perilously upon dereliction. Thus 
on the authority of the Courier de V Europe, he 
erroneously attributes to Lord Sandwich the re- 
mark that "the time will come perhaps when com- 
plete reparation will be had of France and Spain 
for their insults," though the version of Sand- 
wich's speech which the scrupulous Noailles had 
forwarded him contained no such menacing pas- 
sage. 29 Again, on no apparent authority at all, 

28 See Noailles to Vergennes, Dec. 12, 23, 26, SMSS., Nos. 1772, 
1793, 1803. Cf. Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 19 and 27, Jan. 8, 
16, and 23, SMSS., Nos. 1786, 1805, 1827, 1838, 1847. 

a Vergnnes to Montmorin, Dec. 3, Doniol, II. 589. Cf. SMSS., 
Nos. 1743 and 1772; also Parliamentary History, XIX. 479. Even in 
quoting the above remark attributed by the Courier to Lord 
Sandwich, Vergennes is forced to add the Englishman's admission 
that "it would be folly to propose war against the House of 
Bourbon." But he underscores the more alarming sentiment. The 
Courier de I'Europe was evidently somewhat disposed to sensa- 
tionalism. See Last Journals of Horace Walpole, II. 181. 


he attributes to Lord North the idea of a frater- 
nal union with America and a new family com- 
pact to confront that of the House of Bourbon, 
though Noailles' report of the same debate quite 
correctly credited this idea to Lord Richmond, 
a Whig advocate of American independence. 30 
Indeed, as late as January 13th, that is nearly a 
week after the royal council had sanctioned an 
alliance with the United States, a memoir from 
the Foreign Office repeats the assertion that Eng- 
land is disposed to sacrifice her supremacy in 
America for "a sort of family compact, that is to 
say, a league against the House of Bourbon." 
This seems to be a distinct reference to the sen- 
timent which, Vergennes must have known, had 
been wrongly attributed to Lord North. It is, 
moreover, the only reference in the document, 
direct or indirect, to any evidence whatsoever 
supporting the charge that a coalition between 
England and America, hostile to France, im- 

30 Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 13, Doniol, II. 640 and 645 fn. 
2. Cf. Noailles to Vergennes, Dec. 12 and 23, SMSS.', Nos. 1772 
and 1793; also Parliamentary History, XIX. 591 and 609. The fact 
of the matter is that the Parliamentary debates during the period 
between Burgoyne's surrender and the declaration by France of 
the Treaty of Amity and Commerce were singularly free of hostile 
flings at that power. The government wanted France's support, 
the Rockingham Whigs advocated unqualified independence for the 
colonies, Chatham, opposed to independence, had not yet further 
indicated his course. The fact that the only two citations which 
Vergennes made at this time of the debates were the two spurious 
ones considered above is significant of their general tone toward 


pended ! 30 " But even where the secretary's deflec- 
tions from the most scrupulous methods of 
propagandism are more venial, they are fre- 
quently not less instructive; and it is interesting 
to observe conjectures which have the form of 
positive statement in a despatch to Madrid as- 
sume, in a despatch of the same date to London, 
the more modest form of interrogation. 31 

And not less illuminating is the constant habit 
of the secretary in his despatches of dropping the 
note of alarm for that of confidence. Examples 
might be multiplied, but one will suffice, that 
furnished by his comments upon Lord Sand- 
wich's review in Parliament of the British naval 
situation : 

But why should we look only on the dark side of 
things ? According to Lord Sandwich himself, England 
has thirty-five ships of the line ready and with some 
effort could increase the number to forty-two. That 
then is all she can rely upon to guard the Channel, to 
observe our fleet at Brest, the Spanish fleets at Cadiz 
and Ferrol, to protect her establishments and her com- 
merce in the Mediterranean and secure the defense of 
her islands in America. Even she does not count greatly 
upon the naval forces which she has in North America. 
These consist of such ancient vessels, with such impover- 
ished and dilapidated equipment, that they could lend 

308 The memoir is given in Appendix III. It represents an 
effort to bring together every possible argument for the Ameri- 
can alliance. 

81 Of. SMSS., Nos. 1805 and 1807, bearing date of Dec. 27, 1777. 
See also note 19 above. 


little assistance to inferior forces. All of which, as you 
see, Monsieur, is not calculated to discourage the two 
crowns if they know how to take their time and strike at 
the proper moment. 32 

How badly these words comport with Ver- 
gennes' supposed anxieties for the French An- 
tilles is obvious. But what is equally to the 
point, the inconsistency thus exemplified is much 
more than a characteristic of the secretary's ar- 
gument; it also projects itself into his policy in 
the most vital way, if we are to regard that as 
designed primarily for the defense of the Antilles. 
The only feasible method of either attacking or 
defending the Antilles was with a fleet; but the 
United States, though they had ports of embark- 
ment, had no fleet capable of such an enterprise, 
while Spain, pledged to come to France's assist- 
ance at the first hostile blow, had both a fleet and 
ports of embarkment that opened directly on the 
Caribbean. Yet Vergennes deliberately put in 
jeopardy the alliance with Spain in order to get 
an alliance with the United States; and in so 
doing, moreover, made war with England a 
certainty ! 33 

82 Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 27, Doniol, II. 666; SMSS.; 
No. 1805. See also to same general effect Vergennes to Mont- 
morin, Jan. 30, Doniol, II. 789-90; SMSS., No. 1853. Note, too, 
the secretary's complacent survey of the defenses of the West 
Indies, in his "Project de Reponses," to Florida Blanca's ques- 
tions, which was read to the king Jan. 28, Doniol, II. 782. 

33 Of course, if it was assumed that America reconciled with 
England, would be the one to instigate the attack on the French 


Nor does inconsistency stop short always of 
contradiction. For the fact of the matter is 
that Vergennes himself is quotable for the conten- 
tion that the defense of the French Antilles was 
not a leading, or even a considerable object with 
his government. Thus, early in the volume I 
drew attention to a despatch penned shortly after 
the news of Saratoga in which he wrote : "The in- 
terest of Spain is at least tenfold our interest ; our 
islands are little designed to tempt the cupidity 
of the English ; they already have enough of that 
sort of thing ; what they want is treasure, and that 
is to be got only from the continent." 34 And 
the alliance having been consummated, he ex- 
pressed himself even more to the point: 

West Indies and that England would not otherwise make such an 
attack, then the above argument would fail. But Vergennes 
suggests America's interest in such an attack in only one passage 
and that put in the form of an interrogation. Thus, in his des- 
patch of December 27th to Montmorin, he writes: "Les Ame"ri- 
cains nous proposent de conqu^rir les isles angloises et de leurs y 
accorder un commerce libre. Si vice versd les Anglois font la 
meme proposition, ne sera t'elle pas ecout6e, sera t'elle rejettee?" 
Doniol, II. 665. It is true that he represents the Spanish colonies 
as also presenting certain temptations to the Americans, e.g., the 
navigation of the Mississippi, but he also constantly assures Spain 
that the Americans will be very peaceable neighbors, quite dif- 
ferent from the avaricious English. As we have seen repeatedly, 
it is upon the proverbial cupidity of England and the desire she 
will have to retrieve her losses that Vergennes bases his whole 
alarmist argument. As to the Spanish alliance being put in 
jeopardy, the memoir given in Appendix III proves that the 
Foreign Office was quite ready to face the possibility, in January, 
1778, that Spain would remain neutral throughout the war. Vd. ib. 
34 76., 643. 


It is not, I assure you [he wrote Montmorin, April 3, 
1778], without something of pain and effort that the 
king and those of his ministers who enjoy his closest 
confidence have brought themselves to adopt a dif- 
ferent course with reference to American affairs than 
that of the Catholic king and his ministry; but indeed, 
the interest of Spain herself has had greater weight in 
our decision than our own interest. The latter is com- 
paratively feeble, if we measure it by our possessions, 
for these are hardly of a nature to whet the desires of the 
English, since they have none of the precious metals for 
which the English are so famished. It is rather toward 
the Spanish mainland that their eyes are turned, and 
I demand if England, mistress of the industry and re- 
sources of North America, and capable of fructifying 
these with her own wealth, would not be a neighbor more 
inconvenient, more formidable than the United States 
could probably ever become, given over as they are to 
the inertia which is the very essence of democratic in- 
stitutions? 35 

Now, of course, it is quite true that these pas- 
sages both occur in despatches intended for 
Madrid and designed to persuade that govern- 
ment that its interest lay with France and Amer- 
ica, wherefore it may be argued that they are not 
to be taken too seriously as a revelation of the way 
of thinking of the French Foreign Office. Let 
the argument be granted to the fullest extent: 
what, then, is the implication as to utterances 
designed primarily for another forum and show- 
ing imminent peril to French possessions? Be- 

35 /&., III. 50-1. 


sides, it does not appear very precisely how, 
supposing there had been a reasonable degree of 
likelihood of France having to come to the de- 
fense of her possessions, Vergennes' plea in ex- 
tenuation of her course, addressed as it was to 
France's ally, was strengthened by disparaging 
that fact. Palpably, the very contrary is the case. 
However, it may be urged from another angle, 
that the material feature of the passages under 
consideration is the assertion of France's concern 
for the safety of Spanish America, and that since 
this feature constantly reappears both in papers 
intended for Madrid and those intended for his 
own court, it is to be taken as expressing a ser- 
ious objective of his policy. Let this too be 
granted: the question then confronts us, Why 
was this so? It will hardly be contended, I sup- 
pose, that the French government was moved to 
any great extent by altruistic considerations, and 
especially since the course it took was extremely 
disagreeable to the only possible beneficiary of 
its altruism. And by the same token, the terms of 
the Family Compact can scarcely be cited to fur- 
nish the required explanation. One explanation, 
then, and only one, remains : The very keen in- 
terest that France felt at all times in preventing 
a British conquest of Spain's holdings in America 
sprang from considerations connected with the 
doctrine of the Balance of Power, the idea being 
that, since England and France were rivals, any 
accession of new resources to the former would 


put the latter at a correlative disadvantage in the 
field of rivalry. Yet the moment these considera- 
tions are made premises of the discussion, 
France's vast interest in promoting the separa- 
tion of Great Britain and North America looms 
before us. And which of the two contingencies, 
this separation or a British conquest of Spanish 
America, must have appeared the more imminent 
after Saratoga, and therefore as furnishing the 
more calculable basis of policy, is hardly a matter 
for serious doubt. 

"The interest of separating the English colo- 
nies from the mother-country and of preventing 
their reunion at any time in any manner what- 
soever is so primary a one that if the two crowns 
should purchase it at the price of a war a little 
disadvantageous, yet if they brought this separ- 
ation about, it would seem that they ought 
not to regret the war whatever its outcome" 
Thus wrote Vergennes in December, 1777, while 
American recognition was still under debate. 36 
And why should France desire this separation? 
The answer is supplied from another despatch 
written after the cause of recognition had tri- 
umphed, in these words: "That which ought 
to determine and indeed has determined her 
[France] to join with America is the great en- 
feeblement of England effected by the subtrac- 

"Ib., II. 644. To the same effect is the memoir given in Appen- 
dix III. 


tion of a third of her empire/' 37 And why should 
France desire the enfeeblement of England? 
This question is answered in a third despatch, 
written with reference to the appearance of the 
Bavarian Succession question, at the moment the 
American alliance was in the act of consumma- 
tion. "England is our first enemy, and the others 
never had any force or energy except from her/' 38 
But with these and like passages before us, 39 

37 Vergennes to Montmorin, June 20, 1778, ib., III. 140. 

38 Vergennes to Noailles, Jan. 17, ib., II. 745-6 and fn.; SMSS., 
No. 1839. 

39 See Ch. I, note 21. "Ou est, pourra t'on me dire, la surete" 
que cette guerre nous sera heureuse? Je repons d'abord: est 
elle de choix ou de necessite". Si elle est de la derniere espece, 
comme tout en fait la demonstration, il faut done s'y soummettre 
avec resignation et courage. Mais supposons qu'elle soit mal- 
heureuse, ce qui est bien proble'matique. Si I'independance de 
VAmerique en est la consequence, si cette independence est absolue; 
si elle ne produit pas un pacte de fraternitd qui reindentifieroit 
les deux peuples et n'en feroient plus q'un, les deux Couronnes 
n'auront elles pas infmiment gagn6 d'avoir procure" une separation 
aussi considerable et diminu d'autant la puissance de leur ennemi 
inveter?" Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 27, Donlol, II. 666. 
Florida Blanca thus epitomizes the arguments of the French 
despatches: "La cour de Versailles a pense 1 de son cote" qu'il 
convenoit a sa gloire, a la bonne politique et aux inte>ets les plus 
essentiels de la monarchic francoise de gagner de vitesse 1'activite" 
du cabinet britannique, et de ne point laisser chaper une occasion 
aussi favorable (et qui ne se pre"sentera plus jamais) de convertir 
en avantages immenses pour la maison de Bourbon les memes 
moyens dont les Anglois avoient imagine" pouvoir se servir pour sa 
mine,' 'ib., 749. "L'objet principal des ministres du roi 6tait 
d'assurer I'independance des Etats-Unis et d'enlever ces treize 
riches provinces a 1'Angleterre," Se*gur, Memoires ou Souvenirs 
et Anecdotes (Paris, 1844, 3 vols.), I. 166. Se"gur was a friend and 
confidant of Vergennes. 


it becomes evident that the substance of Ver- 
gennes' concern in the period following the news 
of Saratoga was not, primarily, the security of 
the French West Indies ; that, indeed, the anxie- 
ties which he at times professed on this score, at 
other times minimized, are not to be regarded too 
seriously. His real concern, a concern that finds 
repeated utterance in his despatches and again 
through Gerard, in the latter 's negotiations with 
Franklin, Deane, and Lee, was of a reconciliation 
between England and America which, however 
devoid of belligerent intent toward the House of 
Bourbon, would yet pave the way for the final 
restoration of British dominion over the military, 
industrial, and commercial resources of America, 
and especially of the last. 40 In other words, his 
concern was the obverse of his desire, and, with 
the evidence that Saratoga afforded of the real 
dimensions of the Revolution, of his hope, that is 
to say, the hope of seeing England and America 
permanently separated. The way, however, to 
make that sure, he argued, was for France to 
espouse the cause of American independence; 
for then the Americans would persist till inde- 

40 See Doniol, II. 633-4, 638, 640, 655-6 fn., 665-6, 738 fn., and 837; 
SMSS., Nos. 1831 and 1847. "We must now either support the 
colonies or abandon them. We must form the alliance before Eng- 
land offers independence or we will lose the benefit to be derived 
from America, and England will still control their commerce." 
Vergennes to Montmorin, Phillips, op. cit., 73 (citing the Archives 

des Affaires fetrangeres, Espagne, 588, No. 17). 


pendence was in fact won and, when won, would 
use their liberty of action in ways beneficial to 
France. But before, of course, he could put this 
program into effect he had either to persuade his 
own king and the king of Spain to join in ac- 
cepting it, or to persuade Louis to take a line of 
his own. He soon found that the latter alterna- 
tive was the immediately feasible one, though not 
so easily feasible ; whereas, in so important a mat- 
ter as this one of intervention, involving the cer- 
tainty of war, no half-way conversion of the king 
to the ministerial program would at all suffice. 
The somewhat abstract argument showing the 
large but rather intangible advantages to flow 
from England's loss of North America and its 
resources, had, therefore, to be supplemented by 
an argument of a more imperative sort, showing a 
danger immediate and concrete. 

The notion that French possessions in the 
West Indies were menaced by a pending Eng- 
lish-American coalition played an important part 
in bringing France into the War of Indepen- 
dence. It was this suggestion, supported by the 
somber name of Chatham, which first drew Ver- 
gennes' infra- Continental gaze to what was tak- 
ing place on the other side of the Atlantic. It 
was with the same notion that Vergennes him- 
self was able to counter Turgot's argument 
against secret aid, that it invited war. Lastly, it 
was with this notion that Vergennes overcame 


Louis' reluctance to part company with his royal 
uncle for the sake of some rascally American 
rebels. Yet, when all is said, the theory in ques- 
tion throws little, if any, light on the nature of 
the principal advantage which the secretary ex- 
pected that France would derive from interven- 
tion. And clearly, his statement at the moment 
of the royal council's decision in favor of an 
American alliance, that it was "not the influence 
of his ministers that decided the king" but "the 
evidence of facts, the moral certainty of peril," 
should be taken with a saving allowance of salt. 
No doubt Louis was convinced by the "facts" as 
they were represented to him ; but if the monarch 
was unable to discern the flimsy texture of hear- 
say and guess-work beneath the ministerial var- 
nish, the secretary was not so unaware of the 
quality of his own elaboration, as his constant 
admissions attest. Nor does "the evidence of 
facts" from American sources assist his effort 
thus to bridge the gap between remote possibility 
and calculable probability. Not a single state- 
ment of either Franklin, Deane, or Lee is on 
record showing either that they ever heard the 
word "coalition" from any British agent, or that, 
after Saratoga, they ever hinted such an idea to 
the French government, or that they supposed 
the French government to be alarmed on that 
score. The argument from silence is not always 
the most convincing, but its concurrence with 


more positive considerations, as in this instance, 
is at least reassuring. 41 

41 The theory of an impending hostile English- American coalition 
having played its part in bringing the king into line for an 
American alliance was next utilized to exonerate France's con- 
duct to legitimist Europe. The original form of the French 
government's apology for recognizing the independence of the 
United States is to be found in the "Precis of Facts relative to 
the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce," which was read to 
the Council, March 18, 1778, (SMSS., No. 1904). Several months 
later a more extended apology was put forth in the form of the 
Expose des Motifs, et<\ (translated in the Annual Register, XXII. 
390 ff.). In the latter document the following statement occurs: 
"The French treaty defeated and rendered useless the plan 
formed at London for the sudden and precarious coplition that 
was about to be formed with America and it baffled those secret 
projects adopted by His Britannic Majesty for that purpose." 
This document was answered for the British government by 
Gibbon the historian in a paper of vast ability, entitled Mdmoire 
justicatif, etc., and written in French. (For translation, see 
Annual Register, XXII. 397 ff.) Gibbon taxes the French gov- 
ernment with having rendered the Colonies secret aid "the court 
of Versailles," he says, "concealed the most treacherous con- 
duct under the smoothest professions"; with having revived old 
quarrels reaching back, some of them, to before the Peace of 
Utrecht; and with claiming the privileges of a belligerent while 
professing the character of a neutral. Coming then to the coali- 
tion charge, he writes: "When an adversary is incapable of 
justifying his violence in the public opinion, or even his own eyes, 
by the injuries he pretends to have received, he has recourse to 
chimerical dangers. . . . Since, then, that the court of Versailles 
cannot excuse its procedure but in favor of a supposition desti- 
tute of truth and likelihood, the king hath a right to call upon 
that court, in the face of Europe, to produce a proof of an asser- 
tion as odious as bold; and to develop those public operations or 
secret intrigues that can authorize the suspicions of France that 
Great Britain, after a long and painful dispute, offered peace to 
her subjects with no other design than to undertake a fresh war 


against a respectable power with which she had preserved all 
the appearances of friendship." The author of Figaro was now 
set to answer the historian of the Decline and Fall. His answer, 
entitled Observations sur les Memoire justicatif, etc., in its original 
form practically ignored Gibbon's challenge. The bulk of it con- 
sists of an excited review of cases of seizures of French vessels 
by the British on the charge of carrying contraband, and the coali- 
tion idea appears in a single paragraph near the end of the docu- 
ment. See Oeuvres Completes (Paris, 1835), pp. 530-43. The 
work was unsatisfactory to the Foreign Office, however, and was 
recast, presumably by Rayneval, Vergennes' secretary. (See 
Appendix IV and bibliographical data there given.) In the form 
in which it received official sanction the Observations rehashes 
Beaumarchais' review of British seizures, stoutly denies Gibbon's 
charge of secret aid, asserts that the Americans were independent 
in fact when France recognized them, and devotes considerable 
space to the coalition charge, but without very convincing results. 
Thus Gibbon's demand for proof is met by the assertion that 
naturally the British government was not so imprudent "as to 
leave direct marks of its darksome manouvre" and by the reputa- 
tion of the king of France for probity. "It was natural," the docu- 
ment continues, "for the British ministry, unable to subdue her 
Colonies, to seek to be reconciled with them." "In this situation," 
the query is put, "ought it not to be supposed that, the moment 
the British ministry perceived the necessity," etc. Finally, it is 
added: "Moreover, although the king had not had certain proof 
of the hostile views of the court of London, it would have been 
sufficient to have had probable grounds to suspect that they 
existed," etc. In other words, if the fact did not exist, it at 
least behooved the French government to imagine that it did. 
Later passages in the document defend France against the charge 
of having entered the war for the purpose of crushing England: 
her purpose was only to diminish British power, and in this en- 
deavor she represented the interests of Europe. See Appendix 
IV; also the following note. For the more general considerations 
supporting the conclusions of the above chapter, see chapter I, 



Just as the page proof of this book is coining in I receive 
my April number of the American Historical Review, in which 
Professor C. H. Van Tyne reasserts the notion that the French 
government's decision to enter into alliance with the United States 
after Saratoga was determined by the fear that otherwise it 
would be confronted with a hostile English-American coalition 
which would pounce on its West Indian holdings. The printer has 
kindly put space at my disposal for some comments on this 
article, and I avail myself of the opportunity the more gladly 
as in doing so I can perhaps make my own position somewhat 
clearer: 1. To begin with, Professor Van Tyne is in error in 
stating that this explanation of France's action has heretofore 
escaped American writers. Pitkin (History, I. 398-400), Otis' 
Botta (II. 423-39), Perkins (France in the American Revolution, 
pp. 231-S), and Laura C. Sheldon (France and the American 
Revolution}, passim, all note this argument for the alliance. 
And see further American State Papers, "Foreign Affairs," I. 
569-71. Indeed, so far from the idea in question being at all 
"elusive," as Professor Van Tyne suggests, it is quite impossible 
for one perusing the documents to escape it, the only question 
being, what weight, when all the evidence is compared, ought 
to be assigned it in explanation of the alliance. So also, Doniol 
places the "coalition" argument alongside the "enfeeblement" ar- 
gument as explanatory of the alliance, without however making 
any effort to assess the relative value of the two as representa- 
tive of French motives or to distinguish between the point of view 
of the Foreign Office and that of the king. See ib., II. 624-5. As 
to the French writers whom Professor Van Tyne cites as voicing 
his own view, it may be conjectured that they got the idea from 
widely circulated Observations described above. But it is to be 
noted that later writers, like Lavisse and Sorel both of whom 
have investigated the origins of Bourbon diplomatic policy and 
both of whom had Doniol available, give the "coalition" argument 
no weight whatsoever. 2. Professor Van Tyne would draw a hard 
and fast line between the policy of secret aid and the policy of al- 
liance. But as he himself shows, the "coalition" argument was 
urged no less in behalf of secret aid than in that of the alliance. 


Indeed, it is altogether obvious that the reasoning by which the 
Foreign Office supported its policy from start to finish was all of a 
piece, and that the American victory at Saratoga and, conse- 
quently, the situation which it produced was the consummation, 
exactly, which secret aid had from the first been intended to\ 
bring about. 3. Professor Van Tyne brings forward what he calls 
a "key-document" to the motives of the French government in 
entering into alliance with the United States in 1778. I fail to see, 
however, that this document has any significance whatsoever, 
save that it may have been the source from which Professor 
Van Tyne himself first derived his idea of French motives. Thus, 
on the point under discussion, it merely repeats several earlier 
documents (see previous note) and brings forward not one iota of 
additional evidence, except that it apparently endeavors to repre- 
sent North's conciliatory propositions, which post-dated the alli- 
ance, as having been known to the French government at the time 
of its decision. Again, it was written more than five years after the 
events which it narrates. Finally, it was written with the pur- 
pose of silencing the very bitter criticism which, after Grasse's 
defeat in the West Indies, was visited on the ministry's American 
policy. Vergennes' tactics, it seems clear, are to remind the king 
of his own responsibility for this policy and so to fasten on his 
critics the charge of lese-majeste. See Doniol, V. 186-7 and fn.; 
Revue d'Histoire diplomatique VII. 528 ff.; Jobez, La 
France sous Louis XVI (Paris, 1881), II. 492-506. 4. Nor is 
Professor Van Tyne's citation of one or two other documents in 
support of his thesis beyond criticism. Thus the Carmichael 
memorial cited by him on p. 538 of the Review was written before 
Saratoga and is in no wise applicable to show the attitude of the 
American commissioner at the later date. See p. 118, supra. 
Again, the Broglie memoir, cited at p. 537 of the Review, makes 
distinctly against the thesis it is brought forward to support. 
For while Broglie argues that England must in an endeavor to 
preserve her rank, try to recoup her losses at the expense of 
France and Spain, he rejects the idea that the Colonies will accept 
a coalition with her or anything less than independence. And it 
may be fairly said that while it is insisted that England will, from 
the very desperation of her case, fall upon the Antilles, the whole 
trend of the argument is that she has already lost her opportunity, 


together with her naval superiority. Finally, Broglie opposes an 
alliance with the Americans, contending that a commercial con- 
nection will answer all purposes. See Doniol, II. 674 ff. All of 
the other material which Professor Van Tyne cites that is rele- 
vant to his contention will also be found in Doniol, and is suffi- 
ciently discussed in the above chapter. 5. At the close of his 
article Professor Van Tyne writes thus: It seems "clear that 
Vergennes did not invent this motive for the alliance the idea that 
France was confronted by the dilemma of war with England any- 
way . . . merely ... to get the consent of the king and the 
other ministers to the plan he wished to pursue. But whether it 
is his conviction or his device, the idea of this terrible dilemma 
remains the reason for the decision of the French cabinet." These 
words avoid the real issue on several accounts: The "terrible 
dilemma" with which Vergenes confronted the king was not of a 
war with England simply for that France, backed as she would 
have been by Spain, was quite ready (see following chapter) but 
of a hostile English- American coalition. Again, the attitude of 
the cabinet was assured from the first (see pp. 78-9, 85 supra), and 
it is the conversion of the king alone which Vergennes finds it 
worth while to explain in terms meant for the ears of the 
Spanish court in his despatch of January 8. See Doniol, II. 736. 
Finally, since the American alliance was the work of Vergennes, 
it is the underlying reason for his preference that we really need 
to know. Does this reason connect itself primarily with the 
history of French-English rivalry for colonial dominion in the 
Western Hemisphere, or with the history of French-English rivalry 
for influence on the Continent of Europe? That is the interesting 
question. See further, the data in chapter XVI, infra. 



The steps by which the fascinated monarch 
approached the decision that was ultimately to 
cost him his crown and his life are visible in the 
stages by which the Foreign Office and the Ameri- 
can commissioners came to terms. On Decem- 
ber 6th the king authorized advances to the 
Americans looking to a good understanding be- 
tween the new republic, on the one hand, and 
France and Spain, on the other, but nothing 
more definite. 1 In the audience that he ac- 
corded the commissioners, six days later, in 
consequence of this authorization, Vergennes 
emphasized the fact that the common policy of 
France and Spain made it impossible for the king 
to agree to a negotiation without the concurrence 
of his uncle. The Americans in turn indicated 
their preference for a simple treaty of amity and 
commerce and renewed an argument they had 
earlier made, that such an engagement would not 
involve the two crowns in war. But to this con- 

*Ib., 625-6. For further details of this interview and of the 
ensuing negotiations, see Lee's "Journal" in R. H. Lee's Life of 
Arthur Lee, I. 357-89. 


tention Vergennes demurred strongly, urging 
that if they were to treat at all "it must be in 
good faith" and on such foundations of justice 
that the resulting ties "would have all the solidity 
of human institutions." 2 

Mid-December came the rumor that Lord 
Germaine's secretary was in Paris, and Ver- 
gennes at once authorized Gerard to go to 
Passy and "make glitter before his [Deane's] 
eyes, as consented to in advance, everything 
necessary to keep the legation in the lap of 
France." 3 On December 17th, accordingly, 
Gerard brought to Passy the news that the 
king had decided to acknowledge the indepen- 
dence of the United States, to enter into a treaty 
of amity and commerce with them, and to sustain 
their independence by all the means at his dis- 
posal without exacting any compensation for the 
risks he took, "since, besides his real good- will to 
us and our cause, it was manifestly the interest 
of France that the power of England should be 
diminished by our separation from it." Of an 
active alliance, however, Gerard said not a word. 
On the contrary, according to the united testi- 
mony of the three Americans he stated explicitly 
that the king would "not so much as insist that, if 
he engaged in a war with England on our account, 
we should not make a separate peace," the only 

3 Doniol, II. 637-9. 
*Ib., 647. 


condition being "that we, in no peace to be made 
with England, should give up our independence 
and return to the obedience of that govern- 
ment." 4 In other words, while recognition of 
American independence had been decided upon, 
the question of an alliance was still in abeyance. 
There now ensued a fortnight's delay while 
word from Madrid was being awaited. It came 
the last day of the year and was unfavorable. 5 
A further delay of a week was set against the 
gout of the aged chief -minister. Meantime, the 
Americans were pressing for a more indicative 
sign of the course that France was to take, and 
the date of the British Parliament's reassem- 
bling, January 20th, was drawing nigh. At last, 
on January 7th, a royal council, convened at 
Versailles, declared unanimously for a treaty of 
amity and commerce with the United States, and 
a treaty of alliance which should embody the fol- 
lowing features : first, it should become operative 
only upon the outbreak of war between France 
and Great Britain; secondly, it should have for 
its end to secure the "absolute and unlimited inde- 
pendence of the United States"; thirdly, it 
should stipulate a reciprocal guarantee of the 
possessions of the two powers in North America 
and the West Indies ; fourthly, it should allow the 
accession of either party to it to a treaty of peace 

4 Wharton, II. 452-3. 

B Doniol, II. 706, footnote, and 765-70. 


with the common enemy only upon the consent of 
the other; lastly, it should provide, in a separate 
and secret article, for the right of Spain to join 
the alliance. 6 

The next evening Gerard made a second visit 
to Passy. Pledging the Americans to secrecy, 
he began by repeating much of what he had said 
on the earlier occasion, inveighed strongly 
against a curtailed independence, especially as 
to matters of commerce saying that "clear- 
sighted people had perceived this to be a com- 
mercial war from the outset" and urged that 
the deputies at once forego every appearance of 
negotiating with their enemy. Franklin, inter- 
rupting, inferred that war would be begun at 
once by the king upon England, but Gerard 
answered that such was not the king's plan, that 
that was out of the question. He then asked what 
the deputies would consider a sufficient induce- 
ment to make them reject all propositions from 
England which did not include full independence 
in matters of trade as well as of government ; also 
what terms would evoke a like response from the 
American Congress and people. To the first 
question the envoys returned answer on the spot: 
the immediate conclusion of a treaty of commerce 
and alliance would close their ears to all pro- 
posals not providing for the unqualified indepen- 
dence of the United States both political and 

76., 729-30. 


commercial. Gerard now announced that he was 
authorized to say that the king would conclude 
such an arrangement at once, in the form of two 
treaties, one a commercial treaty, which should 
go into effect upon ratification and should be 
strictly reciprocal, and the other an eventual 
treaty of alliance. He then referred to the pos- 
sible conquest of the American continent by the 
United States, Deane having told him that 
Franklin was eager for this and indeed found in 
it the principal reason for an alliance with 
France. But Gerard indicated that he was un- 
certain how far His Most Christian Majesty 
would engage to cooperate in such an enterprise. 
He also let them know that he now spoke for 
France alone and not for Spain, with whom, he 
implied, they would have to come to terms sep- 
arately, an announcement which disappointed 
Franklin greatly. 7 

Three days later the commissioners, through 
Deane, returned Gerard an answer to his second 
question. It was a demand for "an immediate 
engagement" on the part of France "to guarantee 
the present possessions of the Congress in Amer- 
ica, with such others as they may acquire on the 

T Gerard's Narrative, Jan. 9, 1778, SMSS., No. 1831. Note that 
on this occasion, as on that of his earlier visit to the commissioners, 
Gerard's chief concern was to make sure, not that the Americans 
would not come to terms with England before making a treaty 
with France, but that they would not come to terms with her at 
any time on any other basis than that of complete independence. 


continent during the war, and either to enter into 
a war with England or furnish Congress with 
the money" to do so, until "all that the English 
now possess on the continent shall be conquered" 
and the English fisheries be secured "to the 
United States and their allies." 8 From this 
time forward the principal point of difference 
between the envoys and the Foreign Office was 
whether the alliance should go into effect at 
once or be contingent upon the outbreak of war 
between France and Great Britain, the desire of 
the Americans being to see the guaranties stipu- 
lated by the treaty effective at once. Though they 
eventually gave way, they showed themselves, ac- 
cording to Vergennes' unexpectedly pertinacious ; 
and actually, as we shall soon see, their concession 
was immaterial. 9 The first drafts of the treaties 
had been handed the commissioners by Gerard 
on January 18th; the final drafts were signed 
February 6th. 10 

The Deane Papers, II. 313-4; SMSS., No. 796. 

See Vergennes to Montmorin, Jan. 16 and 30, Doniol, II. 774 
and 791; SMSS., Nos. 1838 and 1853; and Lee's "Journal," in Lee's 
Lee, I. 388. 

"The text of the Treaty of Alliance is given in Appendix I. 
During the final stages of the negotiation, the Foreign Office 
received two memoirs that may have had some part in inducing 
the king to take the final plunge. One of these came from 
Broglie, who, arguing that England "without colonies and com- 
merce" would be without a marine and without a marine would be 
"henceforth only a third-rate power" but that she must none the 
less now concede American independence, concluded from these 


From the negotiations between the Foreign 
Office and Passy we turn to those that were pro- 
ceeding synchronously between the Foreign Office 
and the Pardo ; for though the general result of 
this correspondence has been anticipated, some 
of the details, too, are of interest. Partially mis- 
led perhaps by Aranda's enthusiasm for a 
French- Spanish- American alliance, which was 
redoubled by the news of Saratoga, partially 
misled too, it may be, by his own enthusiasm for 

premises that she would, simply in an effort to preserve herself, 
attempt to appropriate the French Antilles and portions of Span- 
ish America. The fact that Broglie was averse to any but a 
commercial connection with the United States may have given his 
argument additional weight. Doniol, II. 673-82. Beaumarchais' 
memoir is in characteristic vein. One of its principal arguments 
is the assertion that Chatham and Shelburne would probably 
join the Tory ministry before February 2nd. Then would fol- 
low, it was possible, American independence and a British- Ameri- 
can attack on the French West Indies, and France would be 
the laughing-stock of Europe. To meet this situation, the king 
should at once declare openly that he recognized American inde- 
pendence. The document thus foreshadows the action taken 
early in March, in declaring the Treaty of Amity and Com- 
merce, in which connection it should be compared with Vergennes' 
despatch of January 23rd to Montmorin, written the day follow- 
ing the presentation of the memoir. The memoir will be found 
in Doniol, II. 841-7, and SMSS., No. 1814. A circumstance tend- 
ing to prolong the negotiations was the difficulty that arose be- 
tween Lee and the Foreign Office over the Xlth and Xllth articles 
of the Treaty of Commerce. It was eventually agreed that Con- 
gress should pass upon these articles separately; and Congress 
exercised its option by rejecting them. See J. T. Morse, Benjamin 
Franklin (American Statesmen Series), 277 ff.; also Wharton, II. 
477-85 passim. 


the enf eeblement of England, but also finding it 
the better policy to show a confident front on this 
question that was quite in contrast with his pessi- 
mism in the matter of British intentions, Ver- 
gennes professed to believe, as long as he could 
plausibly do so, that His Catholic Majesty could 
be brought into line quite promptly with what- 
ever policy toward the Americans His Most 
Christian Majesty should adopt for the security 
of the House of Bourbon and its possessions. 
The aged Ossun, who had long since shown 
himself quite unable to hold his own with Florida 
Blanea, had now been superseded at Madrid by 
the Count de Montmorin, a personal friend of the 
king and admirer and confidant of Vergennes. 
Privately the secretary tried to stir the am- 
bition of the young diplomat by a portrayal of the 
unique opportunity offered by the existing 
situation. It was an opportunity that could not 
often recur, especially since, "if we come out of 
it successfully I hope we shall have quiet for a 
long time." 11 "Take for your motto," he accord- 
ingly exhorted, "and make them adopt it: 
Aut nunc aut numquam" "Let Spain give her 
word and the good word and we shall anticipate 
England." If, however, contrary to all expec- 
tations, we should neglect "the most interesting 
conjecture that heaven could present us, the 
reproaches of the present generation and of the 

11 Same to same, "Prive," Dec. 13, SMSS., No. 1775. 


generations to come will accuse us forever of our 
culpable indifference." 12 

To all such pleadings the astute Spaniard 
turned a heedless ear. He was willing to give 
abundant money succor to the colonies under 
"the express condition of an inviolable secrecy" ; 
also to offer them "protection" should they need 
it, "provided they conducted themselves with 
loyalty and prudence"; and he admitted that an 
alert attention ought to be given to the current 
vicissitudes of the various English parties, espe- 
cially so far as these might affect the American 
question. 13 For the rest, however, he was as in- 
tractable as ever: The existing British ministry 
would never incur the odium of proposing inde- 
pendence for the Americans and the Americans 
would now never take less. There was, therefore, 
no danger of an English-American coalition 
unless the British should be spurred to extreme 
measures by the efforts of France to win over the 
Americans. For France and Spain to recognize 
American independence was quite unnecessary, 
since their interest attached the insurgents to the 
two crowns anyway. His Catholic Majesty had 
an unconquerable repugnance to recognizing 
American independence and the prejudices of a 
man of sixty-two were not easily uprooted. The 

"Doniol, II. 644-5. 

13 Florida Blanca to Moirtmorin, Dec. 23, ib., 695, fn. 2. 


abasement of England was no object to Spain. 14 
Coming to the Pardo one day late in Decem- 
ber, Montmorin was informed that a despatch 
just received from Aranda showed the govern- 
ment at Versailles to be already in negotiation 
with the Americans. Montmorin had not received 
word to this effect and believed that the infor- 
mation was false, but he decided not to contradict 
it at first because he wanted to see what the effect 
would be if the case really were as Aranda had 
stated. He soon discovered, for the Spanish 
minister, in a mounting rage, denounced the 
folly, inconsiderateness, and precipitancy of 
France's policy to his heart's content. When the 
storm had a little abated, the young Frenchman 
said: "You will be astonished to learn that far 
from having begun with the Americans, despite 
the urgency of the case . . . the king awaits . . . 
the advice of his uncle." For a moment Florida 
Blanca was taken aback, but soon recovered suffi- 
ciently to resume his reproaches: Only the year 
before Spain had been ready for war and France 
had backed down. Again, it was France that had 
left Spain in the lurch in 1762. To treat with 
the Americans was equivalent to declaring war on 
England. However, if Spain did enter the war 
she "would not be the first to ask for peace." 
"Before asking for it she would sell her last shirt," 

"Florida Blanca to Aranda, Dec. 23, ib., 765-70; Mortmorin to 
Vergennes, same date, ib., 700. 


to which Montmorin rejoined pleasantly that he 
hoped it was the English who would have to sell 
their shirts. 15 

But if the young ambassador thought that he 
had drawn his enemy's fire against the day when 
he would have to tell the whole truth about his 
government's policy he was much mistaken. 
Louis' decision to ally himself with the Ameri- 
cans was communicated to Charles in a note from 
the royal hand under date of January 8th, 16 
which Montmorin transmitted nineteen days 
later, a delay that is to be credited to the finesse 
of the French secretary, who, it may be conjec- 
tured, did not wish news of the Pardo's reaction 
to Versailles' decision until the latter had been put 
beyond recall. The Spanish minister's reception 
of the news was most dramatic. The intensity of 
his emotion displayed itself in both countenance 
and gesture. To contradict or oppose him was in 
vain. "He trembled in all his body and had the 
greatest difficulty in the world in expressing him- 
self." "You think," said he finally, "this moment 
a most auspicious one for the two crowns ; I think 
it the most fatal for Spain; but it would be the 
fairest day of my life if the king would let me re- 
tire." Next day Montmorin visited the king who, 
he soon perceived, shared his minister's feelings to 
the full. His Majesty voiced in solemn tones 

15 76., 696-9. 
"Z6., 713-4. 


his affection for his nephew and his concern for 
the peril in which Spain found herself. 17 

Yet in the days following both monarch and 
minister recovered something of their equanimity 
in apparent resignation to accomplished fact. 
They were, moreover, counting on the ostensible 
disposition of France at the moment not to antici- 
pate events further. Vergennes' original pro- 
gram had been to secure Spain's assent to the 
general principle of an alliance with the United 
States and then to leave the two powers ample 
time to make their own terms with one another. 18 
This course he had indeed abandoned when he en- 
tered upon negotiations with the Americans, but 
the Treaty of Alliance itself still carefully safe- 
guarded in Spain's interest the margin of time be- 
tween its signature and the anticipated outbreak 
of war with Great Britain. 19 Furthermore, as 
Florida Blanca analyzed the motives probably 
governing the British cabinet, this interval was 
not unlikely to be a considerable one, provided 
only the initiative were in future left with that 
body. Thus guaranteed, as he thought, the spa- 
cious tomorrows so dear to the Spanish heart, His 
Catholic Majesty's minister began early in Feb- 
ruary gradually unfolding the expectations of 

" Montmorin to Vergennes, Jan. 28, ib., 750-2. See also Florida 
Blanca to Aranda, Jan. 27, ib., 748-50. 

M "Les epoques de 1'Espagne seront les notres," Vergennes to 
Montmorin, Dec. 11, ib., 636. See also ib., 637-8 and 644. 

19 See the separate and secret article in Appendix I. 


Spain. "The Spaniards," wrote Montmorin in 
comment, "are a little like children. They can be 
interested only by presenting shining objects to 
their gaze." The Spaniard on the other hand 
complained that France's moderation had hope- 
lessly prejudiced his case from the outset. He 
did, however, venture to indicate the restoration 
of the Floridas and a share in the Newfoundland 
fisheries as possible objects of ambition to 
Spain. 20 

But while Florida Blanca was just beginning 
his bidding in a game which he evidently expected 
to be a leisurely one, Vergennes was coming to 
the conclusion that by France and England at 
least aD cards must soon be boarded, a conclu- 
sion to which he was undoubtedly assisted by an 
interview he had with the British ambassador on 
January 22nd. Stormont initiated the conversa- 
tion by taxing the secretary with reports in circu- 
lation about Paris of active military preparations 
going on at certain French ports. Vergennes, 
showing embarrassment, disavowed any knowl- 
edge of these, whereupon Stormont brought for- 
ward the report, which "gains ground every day," 
of a treaty or convention with the rebels or "at 
least" of France's "having accepted some pro- 
posals from them." Vergennes now became more 
embarrassed than the Englishman had ever seen 

30 Montmorin to Vergennes, Feb. 2, 5, 9, 16, 26, paraphrased in 
Doniol, II. 795-8. 


him, "played with his fingers and remained quite 
silent," whereupon the relentless Stormont pro- 
ceeded: "Your Excellency, who was so long a 
foreign minister . . . certainly knew how to ob- 
serve the silence as well as the language of those 
you treated with. You will allow me to follow 
that example." He then cited an interview of 
the previous month in which the secretary had met 
a similar report with a hearty denial, which was 
no doubt truthful. But on the present occasion, 
he continued, being unwilling "to stoop to false- 
hood . . . [you] did not answer a single sylla- 
ble." Vergennes now sought retreat behind a 
distinction between "Lord Stormont" and "the 
British ambassador": when the former had jocu- 
larly questioned "the Count de Vergennes" about 
the current rumors of an American treaty, "the 
Count de Vergennes" had been free to respond 
with candor, but when "the British ambassador" 
seriously questioned "the secretary of state" on 
so important a matter, the latter before answer- 
ing must first obtain the views of his royal mas- 
ter. 21 Certainly, a rather lame evasion. But 
what was even more ominous, though "Lord 
Stormont" continued malignantly to pester "the 
Count de Vergennes" with unwelcome questions, 
"the British ambassador" carefully refrained 
from pressing inquiries "a categorical answer to 

21 Stormont to Weymouth, Jan. 22, SMSS., No. 1846; Vergennes 
to Noailles, Jan. 24, Doniol, II. 792-3. 


which . . . would probably lead to the most ser- 
ious consequences." 22 

In other words, not only was it evident that the 
British government took it for granted that a 
treaty existed between France and America, but 
also that it desired to conceal the fact; and, of 
course, the inference was inevitable that, if con- 
cealment was calculated to promote England's 
plans, it could not be a good thing for France. 23 
Moreover, the unsatisfactory answer that the 
American envoys had, on January llth, returned 
to Gerard's second question had, naturally, not 
been forgotten; while the fact that, if the Treaty 
of Alliance was eventual as to France it was the 
same as to Congress also, could not be ignored. 
Lastly, Vergennes, recalling no doubt some of 
his own experiences with legislative bodies on the 
Continent, began to apprehend the possible ef- 

28 Stormont to Weymouth, Jan. 28, SMSS., No. 1851 ; Vergennes 
to Montmorin, Jan. 30, ib., No. 1853. 

28 Wentworth, had written, as early as Dec. 29, in the most posi- 
tive terms, of the decision of France and Spain to support Ameri- 
can independence (SMSS., No. 722), but this was obviously mere 
guesswork on his part; and little credence seems to have 
been given by George III to his reports (Donne, II. 109, 
121). As late as Jan. 13 George is still confident that the French 
ministers want peace (ib., 118), but by Feb. 9, he has changed his 
opinion (ib., 133) and has come to recognize, in consequence, the 
need of offering some measure of conciliation to America, a thing 
he had previously opposed, apparently. In a letter of Feb. 23, 
Gibbon says that treaties were signed at Paris with the Americans 
on the 5th of the month. 


feet of British gold on the loyalty of Congress. 24 
Vergennes' determination to force develop- 
ments is made clear in his despatch of January 
23rd, and again in that of January 30th. 25 
In the latter he gives renewed assurance of the 
secrecy of the French government and the Amer- 
ican commissioners, but argues that as soon as 
the treaties reach America the news of them will 
speedily become public. From this he concludes 
that it will be necessary for the king to proclaim 
the Treaty of Amity and Commerce by the end of 
April or the first of May, that is, several weeks 
before the Mexican fleet will have reached Spain. 
He accordingly offers Spain the loan of ten ves- 
sels of war for her Cadiz squadron and to make 
sure the safe return of the treasure fleet. 

Not only, however, did the Spanish minister 
sulkily decline the proffered war craft, he also 
showed himself quite determined not to quicken 
his pace in negotiation, 26 thus stressing anew the 
precarious situation in which France now found 
herself, with the old love off and the new one not 
yet securely on. True, the Treaty of Amity and 
Commerce constituted a pledge of American 
friendship, but so long as Spain remained aloof, 
something more than this was wanted; while, on 

* Vergennes to Montmorin, repeating a rumor that the English 
government was sending 500,000 guineas to America to pave the 
way for a negotiation, Doniol, II. 802, footnote. 

*/&., 738-9, footnote, and 789-92; SMSS., Nos. 1847 and 1853. 

29 See note 11, above. 


the other hand, England, now aware of the ex- 
istence of a treaty between France and the 
United States, might at any moment offer the 
latter their independence, which offer the Amer- 
icans were still free to accept, and then withdraw 
from the war. 27 On February 17th Lord North 
introduced his plan of conciliation into Parlia- 
ment. It undoubtedly fell a long way short of 
according the colonies independence, but there 
was, of course, the constant possibility of its 
being further modelled on that idea. 28 The same 
day, moreover, a colloquy occurred in the House 
of Commons between Fox and Grenville on the 
one hand and Lord North on the other which 
furnished additional evidence that the British 
ministry was well informed of the subsisting 
relations between France and America but pre- 
ferred to keep the matter hidden for the time 
being. 29 

"See art. I of the Treaty of Alliance. 

38 Parliamentary History, XIX. 762 ff.; "Instructions to the 
Earl of Carlisle," etc., Apr. 19, 17T8, SMSS., No. 440. "Upon the 
subject of commercial regulations," runs this document, "the 
prevailing principle has always been to secure a monopoly of 
American commerce." If these ancient restraints were to be 
abolished, then certain new ones must be stipulated in their 
place. That, however, was a matter for Parliament, but before 
it was considered, representatives from the colonies would be 
admitted to that body. Evidently there was no intention of 
surrendering the old commercial system without a further struggle. 
See further SMSS., Nos. 359-63 and Part. Hist., XIX. 379, 577, 
and 942. 

9 Parliamentary History, XIX. 769, 774-5. There was also in- 


On March 7th Louis approved a declaration of 
the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between 
France and "the independent States of America," 

creasing tension between the two governments at this time on 
account of certain of England's naval measures. In Vergennes' 
despatch of Feb. 21st occurs the following passage that has an 
obvious pertinency to recent questions between the United States 
and certain of the present European belligerents: "Vous lui [Lord 
Suffolk] ferez sentir . . . que le droit des gens, les trait6s et 
surtout la dignit6 de la Couronne de France ne sauroient d6pendre 
des circonstances ou peut se trouver la Grande-Bretagne." Doniol, 
II. 806. Vergennes was evidently now coming around to the view 
that England meant to attack France first, or to force France to 
attack her, and then press negotiations in America, ib., 744 fn. 
2, and 803-5. Another circumstance that may have influenced 
Vergennes in deciding to precipitate developments with England 
is the belief which he may have formed at this time that Arthur 
Lee was acting the spy for the British government. Doniol gives 
a paper said to be in Vergennes' own hand and endorsed thus: 
"Extrait d'une lettre de M. Arthur Lee a Md. Shelburne, crite 
imm6diatement apres la signature du trait6 entre la France et les 
Etats-Unis de l'Am6rique." The passage in question informs 
Shelburne that the treaty is about to be signed and that England 
will have to make haste if she is to prevent the alliance of France 
and the United States. Doniol, III. 169; Wharton, I. 639. The 
letter referred to was probably the work of Lee's secretary Thorn- 
ton, who was undoubtedly a British spy; see data in Whar- 
ton, I. 659-61 ( 207). Again, it may not have been known 
to Vergennes as early as March 7, 1778. But in this connection, 
the memoir of Beaumarchais to Vergennes of March 13, 1778, 
is important. An early paragraph of this document contains the 
following charge: "Son plan [Lee's plan] ay ant tou jours 6t6 
de pr6f6rer, entre la France et 1'Angleterre, la puissance qui le 
mnerait plus surement a la fortune, 1'Angleterre, a pour lui des 
avantages reconnus; il s'en a souvent expliqu6 dans les soupers 
libertins," Deane Papers, II. 392. For Beaumarchais' interest in 
attempting to discredit Lee, see Moncure D. Conway in the A the- 


which Noailles deposited with the British foreign 
office six days later. 30 The purpose of the move 
was threefold; first, to forestall any tampering 
with Congress by British agents, by making the 
American public aware that France had recog- 
nized American independence; secondly, to 

naewn for 1900, I. 305. Lee's loyalty to the Alliance is, in fact, 
above suspicion. See Wharton, I. 525-50; also Ballagh's Letters 
of R. H. Lee, II. 132-42; also Lee's own "Journal." But the 
matters above detailed go, of course, to explain the distrust hence- 
forth manifested by Vergennes and his representatives toward Lee, 
and to a less extent toward his relative, R. H. Lee. See infra. 

^Doniol, II. 820-6. See also Vergennes to Montmorin, Mar. 6 
and 10, for statement of motives, %b. t 810-2 and 813-8. In the latter 
we find Vergennes reiterating the argument that, whatever course 
France took, war was inevitable: "Je pense . . . que quelque parti 
que nous prennions, de moderation, de force, ou meme de foiblesse, 
nous ne pouvons plus eviter la guerre. Ce ne seront ni nos 
engagemens avec l'Amrique ni les secours que nous pouvons lui 
avoir donn^es qui nous la procureront; c'est la de"route de Bur- 
goyne qui Fa preparee et d6cidee. Le ministre anglois a senti au 
moment meme ou cet ev^nement a eclatt6 que la continuation de 
la guerre pour soumettre les Ame"ricains devenait impossible, mais 
pour detourner Panimadversion de sa nation de dessus sa mauvaise 
conduite, il nous a destines deslors a etre les objets de la haine 
nationale et de sa vengeance particuliere." However, he continues 
thus: "Je crois bien qu'il la suspendroit volontiers pour peu de 
terns jusqu'a ce qu'il cut celui terminer avec les Etats-Unis . . . ; 
pourvu toutefois que nous consentions a deVorr dans le silence 
les afronts multiplies . . . ; mais independam't que ce sisteme 
passif et honteux ne peut 6tre celui d'une grande puissance, fer- 
merons nous les yeux a I'int6ret majeur que nous avons d'empecher 
et preVenir une reconciliation et une coalition entre 1'Angleterre et 
l'Amrique qui uniroit ces deux nations dans un meme sisteme de 
paix et de guerre?" Such is the final form of the secretary's 
apology for his program: ib., 816. 


hasten the breach between France and England 
which it was felt the former's recognition of 
American independence must produce, with a 
view to making the Treaty of Alliance operative ; 
thirdly, to associate America in an act flouting 
British dignity in a way to anticipate and pre- 
vent any proffer by England of independence to 
the United States. 31 Fearful that the British 
government would still endeavor to conceal the 
insulting intelligence, Noailles was also instructed 
to drop a hint of it in private conversation. 32 
On March 19th, Stormont left Paris and Noailles 
London; 33 and the American commissioners, 
after being presented at court, dined with Ver- 
gennes. 34 Nine days later, Louis, addressing 

81 In this connection see Chatham's words in the House of 
Lords, May 30, 1777, Parliamentary History, XIX. 319. Also, com- 
pare the attitude of the Rockinghams and that of Chatham when 
the French-American treaty became known. The former wished to 
grant independence immediately, but the latter contended that 
national honor forbade. See his last speech, that of Apr. 6, 1778. 
So long of course as it was not generally known that the British 
government knew of the French-American treaty, North was free 
to offer America what terms he chose. And anyway, even if 
England should choose to pocket her pride and recognize American 
independence, she would plainly have done so because France had 
forced her to it and the latter power would have America's 
gratitude. Doniol, II. 815. 

32 Ib., 826. 

33 "The French message was deemed so ironic and insulting that 
at night orders were sent to Lord Stormont to leave France di- 
rectly without taking leave, and M. Noailles was acquainted with 
that step, that he might retire too," Last Journals of Horace 
Walpole, II. 224. See also Doniol, II. 828-38. 

'"See G6rard to the Commissioners, Mar. 17, Wharton, II. 516. 


two letters to his "Very Dear and Great Friends 
and Allies," informed Congress, in the one, that 
he had appointed M. Gerard "to reside near you 
in quality of our minister plenipotentiary"; and 
in the other, that he was sending a fleet under the 
Count d'Estaing <<r to endeavor to destroy the 
English forces upon the shores of North Amer- 
ica." 35 The first hostile blows were passed on 
the evening of June 17th between a French fri- 
gate and two English vessels off Ushant. 36 

Thus step by step did Vergennes lead his halt- 
ing monarch into war in behalf of American inde- 
pendence. Yet even before the American treaties 
had been drafted, the Continental peace upon 
which the success of the design hinged had been 
brought into jeopardy by the appearance of the 
question of the Bavarian Succession. 37 For our 
purposes it is sufficient to know that upon the 
death of the Elector Maximilian Joseph, his suc- 
cessor made a treaty in January, 1778, recogniz- 
ing certain claims of Austria to lower Bavaria and 
upper Palatinate, and that Frederick II had 
promptly interfered in the name of other heirs to 
the lands involved to prevent this treaty's being 
carried out. France was thus confronted with a 
difficult alternative. Her traditional policy and 

35 76. 521-2. 

M Doniol, III. 147-8. 

"See Vergennes to Noailles, Jan. 17, Doniol, II. 745-6 and foot- 
notes; SMSS., No. 1839. 


her position as guarantor of the Treaty of West- 
phalia required that she should side with Prussia. 
But if she did this she ran the imminent risk of 
throwing Austria into the lap of England once 
more, which would be the first step, perhaps, in 
producing a Continental conflagration. Never- 
theless, Vergennes decided to follow the line dic- 
tated by the Systeme de Conservation and to 
throw France's weight in with the lesser claimants. 
Fortunately he was able to count on the peaceful 
inclinations of Maria Theresa and to draw the 
czarina to France's side. The Treaty of Teschen 
(May, 1779), which excluded Austria from all 
but a small district of Bavaria and yet left the 
Treaty of Versailles intact was a great triumph 
for the secretary's diplomacy and should be re- 
garded as signalizing the restoration of France 
to something like her former influence in Conti- 
nental affairs. 38 

And while he was thus saving one situation, 
Vergennes was creating another, more propitious 
one. In asserting the right of France to receive 
American vessels in her ports because of the bel- 
ligerent character of the provinces in revolt 
against Great Britain, and of the right of French 
merchants to send goods to America and to re- 
ceive them thence, Vergennes had had occasion to 
revive and to define with new precision those 

M Lavisse, Histoire de France, IX. 1 98-100, 109-10; Doniol, III. 
Ch. 3. 


principles of the Law of Nations which the neu- 
tral states of Europe had long pitted against the 
harsher rules that England supported; and in 
articles XXIII-XXVIII, of the Treaty of 
Amity and Commerce, the opportunity had been 
seized to give these principles formal and summary 
statement. Here one will find asserted the prin- 
ciple that "Free ships make free goods"; also, 
rules restricting the belligerent right of visit and 
search within narrowest compass; also, a stipu- 
lated contraband list confining, for the most part, 
the prohibitions imposed in the case of such goods, 
to munitions of war. Then on July 28th, the 
French government issued a Reglement which to 
a reiteration of the above principles added the 
principle that a blockade to be binding must be 
effective. These principles, neutral states were 
informed, France voluntarily agreed to observe 
for the ensuing six months for the benefit of all 
neutral states, and thereafter, for the benefit of 
all such states as were prepared to force England 
to observe the same principles with reference to 
themselves. The declaration was, in other words, 
a clever bid for neutral pressure upon Great Bri- 
tain to force her to surrender her more aggressive 
rules. But neutral states were wary, and until 
1780 the declaration met with only a very quali- 
fied success. Early in this year, however, the 
czarina, angered by the seizure of some Russian 
vessels by the Spanish, issued a declaration of her 


own which followed very closely the lines of its 
French predecessor; and let it be known, more- 
over, that she was prepared to back up her 
principles by force of arms. At Vergennes' 
instigation both the French and Spanish govern- 
ments immediately announced their acceptance 
of this declaration, while the English government 
held back. The czarina who had hitherto lent her 
sympathies to England, now transferred them to 
the Bourbon powers. The result was the First 
League of Neutrals, which, comprising practi- 
cally all the neutral powers of Europe, announced 
its intention of supporting for the benefit of its 
several members the principles of maritime war- 
fare which had found formulation in the Regle- 
ment of July, 1778. To the war which began as 
a war for American nationality and French 
prestige was thus imparted the more universal 
character of a war for the freedom of the seas. 39 

"Lavisse, loc. cit., 111-12; Doniol, III. Ch. 12; IV. Ch. 8; Paul 
Fauchille, La Diplomatic frangaise et la Ligue des Neutres (Paris, 
1893). For the Czarina's Declaration and the responses to it of 
the courts of London, Paris and Madrid, see the Annual Register, 
for 1780, pp. 347 ff. 



To have affixed to France's assault upon the 
British Empire a character that was ultimately 
to attract the moral support of all Europe and 
to have preserved the indispensable condition of 
success for France, peace on the Continent, were 
notable achievements for Vergennes' diplomacy. 
Even so, so long as Spain remained a mere on- 
looker of the struggle, the secretary regarded his 
war program as lacking a vital element. For one 
thing, he must show Europe that French and 
Spanish policy still marched abreast ; for another 
thing, the condition of the royal finances coun- 
selled a quick, decisive war. To Florida Blanca's 
frank notification that Spain would never shoul- 
der the risk and expense of war merely for the 
intangible and highly speculative benefits to flow 
from the enfeeblement of England and a read- 
justment of the balance of power he had, as we 
have seen, lent a heedful ear for some time. Un- 
fortunately, before it had been possible for the 
Foreign Office "to penetrate Spain's desires," 



the situation had developed which had forced 
France to break with England; and the result 
of this step, in turn, was a new obstacle to Span- 
ish cooperation that was quite as formidable as 
any of those which it reinforced. 

The keynote of French- Spanish negotiations 
throughout the spring and early summer of 1778 
is furnished by the ever recurrent reference in 
Montmorin's despatches to "the wounded amour- 
propre" of the Catholic king. Louis had taken 
action vitally affecting the joint interests of the 
two crowns not only without awaiting the assent 
of his uncle, but even without making a plausible 
show of consulting him. Darkly ruminating this 
fact Charles concluded that his nephew had come 
to regard Spain as standing in some sort of vice- 
royalty to France, from which it followed that 
Spain's first duty was to herself, to demonstrate 
her independence and dignity. 1 Whether Florida 

1 Doniol, III. 10-25. Charles had of course been greatly offended 
to begin with by the French-American treaty. See ib., II. 747-57. 
Florida Blanca sketched his monarch's character thus: "Caractere 
mal connu en France, rempli de la plus exacte prohibit^, plein de 
tendresse pour sa maison, mais defiant, soupconneux, tres at- 
tach6 a ses opinions ; on a off enc6 son amour-propre, il a cru qu' on 
le consideVait comme un viceroi d'une province de France devant 
prendre ou quitter les armes suivant les ordres qu'il recevait; 
cette ide 1'a humili6 et des ce moment il a conu le projet de 
prouver qu'il 6tait libre; d'ailleurs, n'6tant plus jeune, tres pieux 
toute sa vie, des scruples viennent a present Tassaillir, le souvenir 
de ses disgraces passees le rend timide, tout concourt a lui in- 
spirer le dsir d'6viter la guerre; il faudrait pour le d6cider lui 
presenter quelque succes brilliant qui flattdt son amour-propre; 


Blanca felt the same degree of alarm that Charles 
professed, lest the younger branch of the House 
of Bourbon should suddenly find itself in a posi- 
tion of tutelage to the older, may well be doubted, 
but at any rate his royal master's resentment was 
too good grist to his mill to be turned aside. Not 
only did it fend off all danger that an untimely 
appeal by Louis to the Family Compact would 
succeed, but it furnished a further argument for 
that delay which, the wily Spaniard early dis- 
covered, was bound to whet France's appetite 
for greater aid than the Family Compact stipu- 
lated for and which must, therefore, be purchased 
on Spain's terms. 2 

There was one respect, moreover, and that an 
important one, in which both monarch and man 
were in genuine accord in reckoning France's 

je le connais; quoique deVot 1' amour de la gloire le touche et il 
voudrait illustrer son regne, ib. f III. 495. To much the same effect, 
is M. Bourgoing's characterization in his letter to Rayneval of 
May 25, 1778, ib., 40. 

2 See infra. M. Bourgoing's letter, referred to in the above note, 
contains many acute observations upon the principal persons and 
factions then at the Spanish court. Of Florida Blanca he writes: 
"Discret, dissimul meme, il a le talent rare de bien cacher quand 
il veut ce qu'il sait, ce qu'il sent." Comparing him with 
Aranda, Bourgoing says further: "Les deux principaux traits de 
dissemblance entre ces deux ministres sont que 1'un est aussi 
ferme que 1'autre eioit foible et facile a conduire; que Tun se dis- 
simule au point qu'on ne sait gueres qui il hait, qui il aime ni en 
qui il met sa confiance, au lieu que 1'autre se livroit sans retenue 
a ses animosits et ne voioit presque rien que par les yeux de 
. . . M. de Campo:" 6., 42, 45. . For an interesting analysis of 
Florida Blanca's policy, see ib., 559, 576, and 583. 


precipitancy a substantial grievance to Spain, 
and that was its tendency to put the question of 
the American peril out of reach of a satisfactory 
solution. In March Florida Blanca's views on 
this subject were still very much "in the vague": 
The Americans ought first to be allowed to 
weaken themselves and then left in anarchy akin 
to that of Germany. 3 Four months later he was 
forthcoming with a more definite remedy: "Seeds 
of division and jealousy" must be sown between 
the new republic and its former mother-country; 
to which end the latter must be left Canada and 
Acadia. 4 The suggestion fell in well with Ver- 
gennes' own program, and he at once answered 
that, while independence "implied the free pos- 
session of all parts of the Thirteen States," it had 
not been guaranteed by France for "other English 
possessions which had not participated in the 
uprising." 5 And by November, the Spanish 
court's view of the American question had re- 
ceived yet further clarification from America it- 

3 Montmorin to Vergennes, Mar. 30, 1778, ib., 20. 

4 Same to same, Oct. 15 and 19, ib., 556-9. In the latter des- 
patch Montmorin makes the good point, that to leave "seeds of 
dissension" between England and America was to leave the seeds 
of a fresh war for which, very probably, France and Spain 
would not be so well prepared as for the present one. He also dep- 
recated the idea that danger could result from the prosperity of 
the United States. That danger, said he, is "fort eloign6 et meme 

5 Vergennes to Montmorin, Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, ib., 561-2. 


self. 6 "There is no concealing the fact," wrote 
Montmorin at this time, "that the interest they 
feel here in the Americans is not very tender." 
"Spain regards the United States as destined to 
become her enemy in no remote future, and conse- 
quently, far from allowing them to approach her 
possessions she would omit no precaution calcu- 
lated to keep them off, and especially from the 
banks of the Mississippi." 7 Florida Blanca would 
"drive both the English and the Americans 
from the banks of the Mississippi." "He would 
render forever impossible the accession of the 
Spanish colonies to the United States, whom he 
more distrusts than he does the English." 8 These 
words, be it noted, do not compromise an appeal 
from Spain to France, or anything like it. They 
are reported by Montmorin on his own initiative 
and quite casually. Why, then, the question sug- 
gests itself, did Spain not make such an appeal? 
Plainly, because she recognized that the discus- 
sion now touched interests with regard to which 

See ch. XI, infra. 

7 Montmorin to Vergennes, Nov. 12, ib., 575-6. To this Vergen- 
nes answered: "II est bien etrange qu'on s'obstine a voir dans 
les Am6ricains un voisin plus dangereux que ne le seroient les 
Anglois. II ne faudroit pour se desabuser qu'examine> avec 
reflexion les constitutions . . . que les Etats-Unis se sont don- 
ne"es. Leur R6publique, s'ils n'en corrigent pas les vices, . . . ne 
sera jamois q'un corps foible et susceptible de bien peu d'activitS 
. . . . Je vous avoue que je n'ai q'une foible, confiance dans l'nergie 
des Etats-Unis:" ib., 581. Vergennes was apparently somewhat 
disappointed in the new ally. 

8 Ib., 585. 


France was already committed; and this being 
so, Spain must keep a free hand to deal with the 
American question in accordance with her own 

Thus the problem of getting Spain into the 
war tended to become more and more compli- 
cated. At the same time, Vergennes' impatience 
to bring the thing about became more and more 
intense. In a memoir addressed to the king on 
June 20th, he had declared his belief that the 
temporizing policy of Spain, if persisted in, spelt 
disaster for both crowns: There could be no 
doubt, of course, what the choice of His Catholic 
Majesty would be when it was once made, but 
delay alone might easily prove fatal to Bourbon 
hopes. France ought to stand ready, in order to 
spur her ally to action, to promise aid in recover- 
ing Gibraltar, in casting off certain distasteful 
commercial arrangements that had been foisted 
on her by England, and in conquering Jamaica, a 
portion of the Newfoundland fisheries, and the 
mastery of the Caribbean. 9 And the Spanish 
ambassador was not less urgent, though for 
rather different reasons. From the first a confi- 
dent prophet of American independence, he was 
now convinced that the triumph of France and 
America over England was near at hand. If then 
Spain wished to be in at the killing, she must 

'"Reflexions sur la conduite a tenir dans les circonstances pr6- 
sentes relativement a PEspagne," ib., 159-63. 


make her election without delay. "It is only a 
dolt," he declared sententiously, "who armed cap 
a pie will consent to stand guard over others com- 
fortably eating their dinners." Spain could not 
rely indefinitely on any efforts save her own. 
"When the sowing is late the harvest is usually 
meagre." 10 

"Aranda to Florida Blanca, Dec. 28, 1777, April 11, Aug. 4, 
and Nov. 1, 1778, Sparks MSS., CII. Other characteristic ex- 
pressions from these despatches are the following: "There is 
not much to be read in this despatch, but a great deal to be thought 
and not slept over." "Spain alone is the party that will be 
exposed [to danger] unless she takes heed. . . . They [the Ameri- 
cans] will have no other neighbors than Spain, they close at hand 
but we afar off, they increasing in population and flourishing and 
we the contrary." "Let us confess that a like opportunity will 
not present itself in centuries for Spain to right herself in several 
particulars." "Spain has treasures which she must redeem. 
. . . This chance will hardly return while the world shall last." 
Writing on May 2, 1779, with reference to the still pending project 
of mediation, Aranda declared that if it succeeded, he would 
"weep tears of blood, that Spain should have taken care of the 
business of others and neglected her own." Florida Blanca 
expresses the point of view of the Spanish court in his despatch to 
Aranda of April 19, 1778: "All the considerations that Your 
Excellency so wisely sets forth are less important than that of the 
king's ceasing to be sovereign and making himself the subject of 
another in the great matters of peace and war." In a report on 
the French navy, of Aug. 4, 1778, Aranda says that by November 
it will be, with the naval aid stipulated for by the Family Com- 
pact, "in condition to subjugate England without [further] as- 
sistance." "This crown," he continues, "wants nothing but the 
disposition ; its immense population, its adventurous spirit, its great 
wealth permit everything." He predicts the success of France's 
enterprise and resulting "tranquility for many years." Evidently, 
he had become thoroughly indoctrinated in Vergennes' viewpoint. 


But was Spanish aid really worth waiting for? 
Would it considering the sulky humor of 
Charles and the palpable self-seeking of his 
minister be worth the price that would have 
to be paid for it? Young Montmorin was scepti- 
cal. "The moderation affected to-day," he wrote, 
"will to-morrow make way for an ambition that 
will cause more embarrassment than Spainish as- 
sistance will pay for." 11 Vergennes, however, for 
the reasons already suggested, gave the warning 
less weight than, in the light of subsequent events, 
it may seem to have deserved. His answer was 
that assurance could not be made too sure, that 
another campaign must see the two nations act- 
ing together, if it was humanly possible to bring 
the thing about. 12 

The road by which Spain finally took her lei- 
surely way into the war was the edifying one of 
mediation. There were several reasons why it 
seemed good to Florida Blanca to dress his mon- 
arch up as the champion of peace and capable in 

Further correspondence between the two men is taken by Sparks 
from D. Antonia Ferrer del Rio, Historia del Reinado de Carlos 
III en Espana, III. pt. V., ch. I., pp. 256-67. Aranda in a 
postscript had quoted Maurepas as saying that evidently "Spain 
hoped, by her mediation, to pick something from the cracks.'* 
This makes Florida Blanca extremely angry. "It is a malicious 
invention," he says, but continues that if "England is hard pick- 
ing for us, we shall not be less so for those gentlemen." Sparks 

11 Report of June 22, Doniol, III. 473. 

12 See ib., 481-5, 486, 526-32, etc. 


its interest of dispensing an even justice between 
France and her ally on the one hand and Great 
Britain on the other. For one thing, the pro- 
posal gave His Catholic Majesty that indepen- 
dent role which his affronted dignity demanded. 
Again, it furnished a new reason for delay. 
Lastly,' in the form it finally assumed, it prom- 
ised Spain an opportunity to curtail American 

The great difficulty was to get the idea 
launched under proper auspices. For France, 
whose act had precipitated the war, to solicit 
Spain's good offices at the outset would have been 
ridiculous ; while England on the other hand, en- 
tirely apart from her natural distrust of the con- 
nection between France and Spain, was of no 
mind to accept peace on any terms that did not 
leave her free to deal with her rebellious colo- 
nies as she saw fit. A round-about hint from 
Florida Blanca in April that His Catholic Ma- 
jesty's services were available to England and 
France, which was accompanied by some absurd 
by-play designed to conceal the manner of its 
origination, was met with a blunt snub from 
London. Florida Blanca vented his chagrin 
on the British ambassador, and for the moment 
it looked to Montmorin as though Spain might 
enter the war without more ado. 13 But so incon- 

13 For these and other details with reference to this abortive 
effort at mediation, see ib., 56-80, passim. 


tinent abandonment of the cause of his affronted 
dignity was hardly to be expected of the quixotic 
Charles. Four months later, however, His Cath- 
olic Majesty had begun to relent somewhat, and 
the English government, alert to the fact and 
eager to keep Spain out of the autumn campaign, 
did, in September, convey a very definite intima- 
tion to the Spanish ambassador at London that 
His Britannic Majesty hoped to see "the war 
ended by the mediation of Spain" and "had no 
doubt that she would be able to save the honor of 
Great Britain without lessening that of France." 14 
From the point of view of the necessity of placat- 
ing Charles this event may well be regarded, as 
M. Doniol indicates, as decisive. On September 
28th, Florida Blanca sent a note to Almodovar 
stating the moral obligation that Spain would 
be under if England did not submit propositions 
along with the king of France, and ten days 
later Vergennes also, conformably with a hint 
from Montmorin, wrote the Spanish ambassa- 
dor formally accepting Spanish intervention. 15 
Charles' gratification expressed itself in a variety 
of attentions to the French ambassador, while 
Florida Blanca, though ostensibly sceptical of 
peace, professed to be not less satisfied on that 
account. He now predicted to Montmorin that 
the following spring would find Spain in arms 
alongside her ally. 16 

14 Ib., 513. See also ib., 497-9. 

15 Ib., 515 and footnotes. 
"76., 516. 


From this point on, though Spanish policy con- 
tinues as devious as ever, the course of events 
becomes comparatively straightforward. The 
British answer to the Spanish note of September 
28th was delayed some six weeks, and when it 
arrived, it laid down the impossible condition that 
mediation must be preceded by the withdrawal of 
the French fleet from American waters and the 
cessation of French aid to the Americans. 17 The 
obvious incompatibility of these conditions with 
those that had already been laid down by France 
ought, it would seem, have at last given the 
mediation project the bare bodkin. 18 But the 
obstinacy of the Spanish monarch, who now had 
the scent of a great role in his nostrils, and 
the subtlety of his minister, who still saw profit 
in delay, were equal to the occasion. On Novem- 
ber 20th Charles himself addressed Louis a note 
accompanied by a "confidential declaration" in 
which, while France's obligation to secure inde- 
pendence for the United States was fully recog- 
nized, it was pointed out that the demand for 

"76., 524. 

18 The French conditions are laid down in the "Articles a pro- 
poser pour la Paix" of Oct. 17, ib., 551-4. The first paragraph 
reads: "Le roi d'Angleterre avouera I'inddpendence absolue des 
13 Etats-Unis de PAm6rique septentrionale pour le politique, le 
civil, et le commerce et les reconnoitra pour Etats souverains et 
parfaitement libres. S. M. B. s'engagera de retirer immediatement 
toutes les forces de terre et de mer qu'elle tient dans aucune partie 
des dits Etats-Unis et de leurs remettre toutes les places, terri- 
toires, et isles en d6pendans." 


a direct and formal recognition of it would be 
a serious offense to British pride. Why then, 
it was argued, should not the procedure that 
had been taken in the case of the Low Coun- 
tries be followed again? In that case France, 
supporting the liberty and independence of Hol- 
land against Spain herself, had been content with 
obtaining, in the first place, a long truce in favor 
of her protege, and then, when Holland had 
wished to make a definitive treaty with Spain, 
had merely stipulated that this should not be 
ratified without her consent. Peace, the Span- 
ish court further urged, was necessary to America 
herself, wherefore there was always the danger 
that England might seduce the United States 
into accepting a separate treaty, a poignant ar- 
gument at the moment, as we shall presently 
appreciate. The conclusion was inevitable that 
some sacrifice in form was advisable to secure 
peace at once, though no sacrifice of real 
obligation. 19 

It is perhaps hardly necessary to point out 
how entirely this proposal of a truce for a term 
of years for the Americans in lieu of a permanent 
peace met Florida Blanca's problem of neutraliz- 
ing American independence as far as possible. 
Such an arrangement would abound in oppor- 
tunities for "sowing seeds of discord" between 
the English and Americans and, by the same 

19 76., 622-3. 


token, in opportunities for making the latter feel 
the necessity of a guaranty of their independence 
from the Bourbon crowns. And such a guaranty 
need not, of course, be accorded gratuitously. It 
might well be made to bring a substantial price in 
terms of American territory along the Mississippi. 
But though fully awake to the possible ad- 
vantages to Spain of peace in America on such a 
basis, the Spaniard was not over-credulous of 
its ever coming about, nor blind to the necessity 
of keeping the door hospitably ajar to the other 
alternative. The royal communication and 
memoir were accompanied to Paris by a charac- 
teristic product of the minister's own pen, ad- 
dressed to Vergennes: His Catholic Majesty 
was still genuinely hopeful of peace, but at the 
same time he was well aware of the possibility that 
negotiations might fail. He accordingly still 
continued his preparations "with the greatest 
activity and trusted that his nephew was doing 
the same." Indeed, the king was "of the opinion 
that without the greatest dissimulation up to the 
very moment of striking no advantage could be 
got of England." Meantime, it became perti- 
nent to inquire what "advantages Spain might 
obtain, and how and in what terms France might 
bring herself not to listen to any proposition with- 
out assuring them to" her. 20 

20 76., 619-21. The last sentence quoted above is underscored in 
the translation of the document by Vergennes. 


Before, however, Vergennes could deal with this 
most significant inquiry, he had to settle the more 
exigent question posed by the royal communica- 
tion, whether France could, harmoniously with 
her engagements with the United States, accept 
for them a truce in substitution for a permanent 
peace. His first opinion was plainly adverse. 
"The Peace of Vervins," he wrote Montmorin, 
December 1st, "was unavailable as a precedent 
in the case of the Americans," for the situation of 
France and her engagements with the United 
State were of "quite a different character to 
those which Henry IV and his predecessors had 
contracted with the Dutch." 21 But as it hap- 
pened, Franklin's English friend Hartley was at 
this very moment urging much the same idea 
from the British point of view. When accordingly 
Franklin, making a confidant of Vergennes, 
showed the latter Hartley's letter, it was not 
difficult to elicit from the American the sentiment 

provided France and Spain were ready to accord the 
United States their good-will and protection, indepen- 
dence, whether recognized as a matter of right or only 
as one of fact, would be a very good thing for them, in 
that it would secure them, along with the sweets of 
peace, or of a truce, the time and opportunity to perfect 
their political arrangements and internal order. 22 

"Vergennes to Montmorin, Dec. 1, ib., 583, footnote. See also 
note 18, above. 

23 Same to same, Dec. 4 and Dec. 24, ib., 595 and 599. 


In his despatch of December 24th to Mont- 
morin, Vergennes, though still insisting that the 
Peace of Vervins afforded no precedent, yet in- 
dicated that France would be willing to consent, 
either to the Americans "treating directly and 
alone with England, under the express condition, 
however, that the treaty shall keep pace with 
our own and that each treaty shall be null and 
void until the other is concluded"; or, to a long 
truce between Congress and Great Britain which 
should leave France at liberty to make a defini- 
tive treaty. In either event the negotiations 
should proceed under the mediation of the Catho- 
lic king, and England should treat with the Amer- 
icans as if they were independent and should at 
once withdraw her forces from "all parts of the 
American continent comprised in the Confedera- 
tion" ; and the truce, were there one, should run for 
from twenty to fifty years and be guaranteed by 
France and Spain, or at least the former. 
Franklin, Vergennes added, had been prepared 
for "an imperfect recognition of the indepen- 
dence of his country" but not his associates, for in 
them "I do not have the greatest confidence." 23 
The day following Vergennes wrote Gerard, the 
French representative at Philadelphia, to prepare 
Congress for a truce and indirect recognition. 
The matter was to be handled "with dexterity" 
and the unalterable disposition of the king to 

28 The despatch of Dec. 24, ib., 596-9, 602-3. 


sustain all his engagements was to be unremit- 
tingly insisted upon. 24 

Thus was the first concession registered at the 
expense of His Most Christian Majesty's en- 
gagements with the United States to the program 
of getting Spain into the war, and others were 
to follow. There was now of course no question 
of bringing Spain into the autumn campaign, for 
that had long since closed, but Vergennes, who 
was already finding the Americans disappointing 
allies, was now becoming fearful that even the 
spring would find the Escurial still balancing and 
undecided. On December 5th the secretary pre- 
sented the king a second memoir on the subject 
nearest his heart : 

If it is a fact [he wrote] that Your Majesty cannot 
alone long sustain a contest with the English on equal 
terms and that the war unduly prolonged would involve 
both Your Majesty's commerce and finances in ruin, . . . 
then it necessarily follows that everything advises our 
risking something in order to bring this ally to the de- 
sired point of reunion with us. I do not conceal the 
fact, Sire, that the pretentions and expectations of 
Spain are gigantic, but it is necessary to consider that 
the time one would employ in opposing them would be 
lost for the establishment of that concert of operations 
which cannot be effected too promptly. 25 

Three weeks later, in the same despatch in which 
he announced to Montmorin the French govern- 

24 76., 613-5. 

25 Ib., 588-90. For Vergennes' view of the Americans at this 
date, see note 7, above. 


ment's willingness to accept a truce for the 
United States, Vergennes wrote further that, 
despite the vast difference between the general 
situation as it existed at the opening of the war, 
when England would have been fairly "at the 
knees of the two crowns," and now when she had 
had time to fortify all her possessions, His Ma- 
jesty "approved in advance all that the king his 
uncle should deem it right and fitting to exact." 26 
But a vague disposition of concession was not 
what Florida Blanca was after, this must pre- 
cipitate itself in a shower of definite, concrete 
stipulations, and particularly must the objects 
be named for which France would fight to the 
end. And what is even more important, with the 
possibility of a truce between England and the 
Americans to be guaranteed by France and 
Spain, the mediation project was still worth cod- 
dling for its own sake. In his despatches of Jan- 
uary 12th and 13th, Montmorin told Vergennes 
that he had sought in vain to secure Florida 
Blanca's views in detail of the advantages which 
France and Spain might expect to obtain from 
the war with England. "At that point the prime 
minister had placed his lever, there he had an- 
chored solidly." "His Catholic Majesty," the 
Spanish minister's own plea had run, "wished to 
show his nephew the same measure of confidence 
that the latter had shown him. He accordingly 

"Ib., 607-8. 


desired that His Most Christian Majesty should 
be the one to specify the conditions without which 
he would promise not to consent to peace/' 
Montmorin's own opinion was that a convention 
guaranteeing Spain the possession of Mobile and 
Pensacola, the expulsion of the English from 
Honduras, and the restitution of Gibraltar would 
be signed promptly if mediation failed, and that 
Jamaica was no longer an object. At the same 
time he noted that, according to Florida Blanca 
at least, the king still preferred peace and that 
consequently it still remained necessary to "allay 
the scruples that were to be anticipated from a 
conscience at once so delicate and so timorous." 27 
But all things end, and the term of Spain's 
vacillations always more apparent than real- 
was at last nigh at hand. On February 12th 
Vergennes sent Montmorin the desired draft of a 
convention together with full powers to agree "to 
any modifications or additions that might seem 
needful." 28 The keystone of the project was its 
third article which reiterated the stipulation of the 
Family Compact that neither party should make 
peace without the consent of the other. The 
fourth article further pledged both parties not 
to make peace till Great Britain should recog- 
nize American independence. The fifth declared 

*Ib., 641-3. See also the letter from Florida Blanca to Ver- 
gennes, of Jan. 13, 17T9, #>., 681-3. 
88 Ib., 685. 


certain additional objectives of a successful war 
that would be of interest to France, including the 
restoration to His Most Christian Majesty of the 
right to build such works at Dunkirk as he chose 
and the expulsion of the English from New- 
foundland. The sixth article pledged France, in 
case she should regain Newfoundland, to admit 
Spanish subjects to the fisheries there. The 
seventh enumerated the objects of interest to 
Spain, to wit, those that Montmorin had listed in 
his report. 29 

Florida Blanca's reception of the proposed 
convention was at first apparently cordial but he 
soon developed numerous criticisms, and particu- 
larly against the fourth article; and finally he 
proposed that he be allowed to draw up a project 
of his own. 30 Spain's policy, wrote Montmorin, 
is "to exact everything and accord nothing" ; yet, 
he added, it is only by adopting her terms that we 
can bring her in. "I have need of patience 
a-plenty." 31 Vergennes in reply professed some 
surprise at the attitude taken by the Spanish 
minister toward "a work that was in some sort 
more his own than ours," yet he continued: "We 
are literally committed to omitting nothing that 
may appear to enlist the interest of Spain." Some 
of the difficulties that had been raised he was dis- 

29 Ib., 803-10, left hand column. 

80 Montmorin to Vergennes, Feb. 28, 1779, ib., 665-7. 

81 Same to same, same date, ib., 662. 


posed to attribute to Florida Blanca's faults of 
temper, on which he heartily commiserated the 
young ambassador. Nor was he greatly aston- 
ished at the repugnance which the Spanish min- 
ister had expressed against recognizing American 
independence at present: "From Spain nothing 
is to be got for nothing: we have from her di- 
rectly that she wishes some advantages from the 
Americans as well as from us, and we will not 
oppose her." At the same time, Vergennes 
thought some reference ought to be made to the 
secret article of the American treaty; for even 
though the convention with Spain would also be 
secret when entered upon, yet in time it would see 
daylight, and then "the glory and honor of the 
king would suffer if it appeared that he had neg- 
lected this ally, and that in order to gain the 
powerful protection of the crown of Spain." In 
short, any proposition would be approved of 
provided that "by the general tenor of the act we 
have not neglected the interests of this republic." 32 
On April 12th, 1779, the secret Convention of 
Aranjuez was signed by Florida Blanca and 
Montmorin. The first article declared the inten- 
tion of the Catholic king, in the event that His 
Britannic Majesty rejected the ultimatum of the 
third of the month offering Spain's friendly of- 
fices for the last time, of making common cause 
with His Most Christian Majesty against Great 

32 Vergennes to Montmorin, Mar. 19, tfe., 670-2. 


Britain. The third, fifth, sixth, and seventh arti- 
cles were essentially the same as the correspond- 
ing articles in Vergennes' project. The fourth 
article, on the other hand, was very different. 
Diligently recording the fact that the king of 
France had "proposed and demanded that the 
Catholic king should from the day when war 
should be declared against England recognize the 
independence and sovereignty of the United 
States and offer not to lay down his arms until 
that independence should be obtained," it re- 
served to the Catholic king the right to conclude 
for himself a treaty with the Americans to govern 
"their reciprocal interests," the sole condition be- 
ing that, to any treaty made by Spain with or 
affecting France's ally, Louis should also be a 
party. The article was well understood on both 
sides to be mere banality. More than a fortnight 
before this Florida Blanca had confided to Mont- 
morin, who in turn had confided it to Vergennes, 
that the Spanish monarch, fearful of the "ex- 
ample he would give his own possessions," would 
"not recognize the independence of the United 
States until the English themselves should be 
forced to do so by a treaty of peace." 33 Finally, 
article IX of the convention read thus: 

Their Catholic and Most Christian Majesties promise 
to make every effort to procure and acquire for them- 
selves all the advantages above enumerated and to con- 

33 Ib., 753 for ? 


tinue their efforts until they have obtained the end which 
they propose to one another, mutually pledging them- 
selves not to lay down their arms nor to make any 
treaty of peace, truce, or suspension of hostilities with- 
out having at least obtained . . . the restitution of 
Gibraltar and the abolition of the treaties relative to 
the fortification of Dunkirk, or in default of this last 
some other object to the taste of His Most Christian 
Majesty. 34 

"76., 803-10. 



Spain was at last committed conditionally! 
We may then, without anticipating much that is 
to follow, proceed to consider the question al- 
ready suggested, of how far France was forced, 
in the interest of bringing Spain into the war 
with England and later, of keeping her there 
to modify her obligations with the United States 
as defined by the Treaty of February 6th, 1778. 
The most interesting phase of this question is that 
touching the direct clash of interests of the United 
States and Spain along the Mississippi river, and 
this we reserve for fuller treatment in the chap- 
ters to follow. At the moment we have to review 
some lesser consequences of the necessity which 
Vergennes finally found himself under, of yoking 
his government to two more or less antagonistic 
allies instead of, as he had originally hoped, to 
governments themselves allied. 

The question of the shape which British recog- 
nition of American independence should take has 
already been touched upon. By the Treaty of 
February 6th British recognition was to be either 



formal or tacit, but in either case it was to be by 
a peace ending the war. 1 By the Spanish propo- 
sition, however, which Vergennes, after some 
hesitation, finally adopted and transmitted to 
Gerard with orders to obtain Congress' assent to 
it, a truce to run for a term of years and to be 
accompanied by the actual withdrawal of Brit- 
ish forces from the territory of the United States 
was to count as a fulfilment of the purpose of 
the alliance, provided that France continued 
to guarantee American independence or that 
France and Spain jointly guaranteed it. In 
point of fact Gerard received the orders referred 
to at an embarrassing moment and in consequence 
presented his case so feebly that Congress in its 
Instructions of August 14th, 1779, made no dec- 
laration on the subject of a truce. 2 Not till June, 
1781, in circumstances to be reviewed later, did 
Congress formally declare its assent to the idea 
of a truce which should be accompanied by a 
British evacuation of all territory of the United 
States. 8 

treaty of Alliance, art. VIII. 

2 Indeed, by the Instructions of this date "The commissioner to 
be appointed to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain" 
was ordered "to make it a preliminary article to any negotiation 
that Great Britain shall agree to treat with the United States as 
sovereign, free and independent." Journals of the Continental 
Congress, XIV. 956. 

8 Op. tit., XX. 652. "If a difficulty should arise in the course 
of the negotiation for peace, from the backwardness of Britain to 
make a formal acknowledgment of our independence, you are at 


The concession demanded of Congress in the 
matter of British recognition owed its origin, 
though not its later repetition, to the necessity 
that France thought herself under at the end of 
1778 of supporting Spanish mediation. Induce- 
ments more directly designed to bring Spain into 
the war against England were, first, the promise 
by France in the Treaty of Aranjuez, in the 
event of the conquest of Newfoundland from 
Great Britain, of a share in the fisheries there, 
and secondly, the listing of the Floridas as ob- 
jects of Spanish ambition. Though the Floridas, 
in significant distinction to "the northern parts 
of America," were not specifically mentioned in 
the American treaty, it was acknowledged by Ver- 
gennes in his instructions to Gerard of March 
29th, 1778, that they entered "into the plans of 
conquest of the Americans." Gerard was ac- 
cordingly instructed more than a year before the 
Treaty of Aranjuez was signed, in view of 
Spain's well-understood desire to restore her 
monopoly over commerce on the Gulf of Mexico, 
"to prepare them for an eventual withdrawal"; 
or, if he was not able to obtain this and it was 
recognized that the matter was one that would 
"require all the dexterity of M. Gerard" he 
should at least "exert himself to obtain Pensacola 

liberty to agree to a truce, or to make such other concession as 
may not affect the substance of what we contend for; and provided 
that Great Britain be not left in possession of any part of the 
thirteen United States." 


and the parts of the coast which will be estimated 
to be of the greatest value to the court of Ma- 
drid." 4 Gerard did as he was told, but again his 
efforts met with little success, as meantime the 
Florida and Mississippi questions had become 
merged. Eventually, in 1780 and 1781, Spain 
went ahead and conquered the British posts in 
Florida for herself, without American aid, it 
is true, but also without American protest. 5 

The reason for the French government's tak- 
ing the United States into its confidence with 
reference to the Floridas is to be found in arti- 
cles VI and XI of the Treaty of Alliance. Under 
the latter, if the United States had conquered 
this region and obtained its cession from Great 
Britain, France would have been bound to guar- 
antee them in its possession. By the former, His 
Most Christian Majesty had "forever renounced 
possession of any part of the continent of North 
America" which had previously belonged to Great 
Britain, a stipulation which naturally carried 

* Memoire pour servir d'Instruction au Sr. Geirard," etc., 
"Approuve," Mar. 29, 1778, Doniol, III. 153-7: see pp. 155-6. 
See also Montmorin to Vergennes, Oct. 15, ib., 556. From the 
latter document it appears that Florida Blanca was willing at this 
date to see all of the Floridas go to the Americans except such 
part as was necessarily for the security of Spain's "navigation in 
the Gulf of Mexico," i.e., probably for the security of Spain's 
monopoly of trade on the Gulf. 

"Other phases of the Florida question are treated of in the 
chapters following, in connection with the Mississippi question 
and Jay's residence in Spain. 


with it the further idea that His Majesty was not 
free to tender, even contingently, any portion of 
this continent to another power in consideration 
for a treaty therewith. But if this was the case 
with the Floridas, then why was it not also the 
case with Newfoundland? Yet in article V of the 
Convention of Aranjuez "the expulsion of the 
English from the island and fisheries of New- 
foundland" is listed as one of the advantages 
which France sought by the war, while in article 
VI it is agreed that if His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty "succeeds in becoming master and acquiring 
possession of the island of Newfoundland, the 
subjects of His Catholic Majesty are to be ad- 
mitted to the fisheries." Evidently the Foreign 
Office interpreted the term "continent" of article 
VI of the Treaty of Alliance rather strictly, 
although it does not seem to have taken Congress 
into its confidence in the matter. And while the 
representatives of the French government at 
Philadelphia frankly combatted the idea from 
the first that the Americans were entitled of pre- 
scriptive right to continue to enjoy that participa- 
tion in the fisheries which was theirs as British 
subjects, they always did so on the ground that 
France ought not to be asked to assume fresh ob- 
ligations the discharge of which might delay 
peace. 6 

c But while the French government did not inform Congress of 
its views in this matter, it probably did so inform the American 


And from the fisheries one turns readily to 
Canada and Nova Scotia, to which the self-deny- 
ing ordinance registered by France in article VI 
of the Treaty of Alliance bore especial reference. 7 

commissioners. Thus Lee records in his "Journal" that, in view 
of the ambiguity of the word "continent" in article VI, he, with 
the approval of Franklin and Deane framed an additional clause 
by which France was also to renounce the right to all conquests "in 
the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John's Anticosti, 
and the Bermudas." Lee's Lee, I. 378-9, 383. In the final treaty 
the Bermudas alone are mentioned in this connection. It ought to 
be recalled that by the Peace of 1763 Spain had lost her share 
of the Newfoundland fisheries, while France had retained hers. 

T See Vergennes to Guines, Aug. 7, 1775, with reference to the 
instructions to be given Bonvouloir. One point that he should be 
clear about, says the secretary, is to reassure the Americans "con- 
tre la frayeur qu'on cherchera sans doute a leur donner de nous. 
Le Canada est le point jaloux pour eux, il faut leur faire entendre 
que nous n'y songeons point du tout." Doniol, I. 156. See also 
his comment on Miralles' suggestion that, while Spain recovered 
the Floridas, France should seek to recover Canada: "Vous savez 
que nous sommes d'une opinion contraire, parceque nos posses- 
sions sur le continent de 1'Amerique ne seroient propres qu'a in- 
spirer de la m6fiance aux Amricains et qu'a les raprocher 
insensiblement de la Grande-Bretagne." Vergennes to G6rard, 
Oct. 26, 1778, ib., III. 570. Earlier Vergennes had offered the 
same objection to Florida Blanca's plan of intervention, the pur- 
pose of which for France was to be the recovery of what she had 
lost in 1763: "La France a des colonies dans la proportion qui 
convient a sa population et a son industrie. Plus seroit une 
charge plutdt q'un benefice. Si la perte du Canada a t6 sen- 
sible elle doit la moins regretted depuis que 1'abandon qu'elle a 6te 
obligee d'en faire est devenu le signal de la revolte des provinces 
angloises sur le continent. Si nous tentions de nous y reintegrer 
nous reveillerons les anciennes inquietudes et jalousies qui 
faisoient le gage de la fidelity et de la soumission de ces memes 
provinces a 1'Angleterre; leur veritable facon de pense> est 


Indeed, by article V of the same treaty, as I have 
just mentioned, the expectation of the United 
States to attempt the reduction of what British 
power remained in "the northern parts of Amer- 
ica" is formally recorded. From the very outset, 
nevertheless, the French government was deter- 
mined, if not to thwart, at least to discourage in 
every way possible, this expectation on the part 
of its ally. Vergennes' own plan for Canada 
and Nova Scotia originally was to exipel the 
English thence and establish there a free "agri- 
cultural and commercial state which should gov- 
ern itself under the protection of France" and 
enjoy reciprocal naturalization and commercial 
privileges with it. In this way, he argued, the 
country would be peopled by the French them- 
selves and "by any who choose to go there," and 
a national spirit, grounded on similarity of lan- 
guage, customs, and national character and kept 
alive by constant intercourse, would be created 
substantially identical with that of France her- 
self. Thus would France raise up to herself an 
ally which, without being burdensome to her 

d6couvert dans les propositions qu'elles nous ont fait parvenir: 
elles ne s'efforcent pas de secoiier le joug de leur patrie pour 
s'expose> a subir celui de toute autre puissance." Letter to the 
king of Apr. 26, 1777, ib., II. 274-5. See also ib., III. 62-3 and 527, 
where France's indifference to territorial acquisitions of any sort 
is insisted upon. It is interesting to regard article VI of the 
Treaty of Alliance as a sort of forerunner of that phase of the 
Monroe Doctrine which declares that "the American continent is 
no longer subject to colonization." 


would yet avail to protect the French interests in 
the Newfoundland fisheries and to check the new 
republic to the south. 8 

But this apparently was the dream of a mo- 
ment. 9 At any rate, by the beginning of 1778 
Vergennes had come to believe that, to furnish 
the necessary make-weight to the United States, 
Canada and Nova Scotia should be left with 
Great Britain. In Gerard's instructions we ac- 
cordingly read that, though Congress has much 
at heart the project of a conquest of Canada, 
Nova Scotia, and the Floridas and would like to 
obtain an agreement with France looking to the 
carrying out of these projects, the 

king has come to the conclusion that the possession of 
these three countries, or at least of Canada, by England 
would be a valuable source of uneasiness and vigilance 
to the Americans, that it would make them feel the need 

8 Aranda to Grimaldi, Oct. 10, 1776, Sparks MSS., CII. Aranda 
also quotes Vergennes as saying that France herself "would not 
again occupy anything more than the islands to the north of 
the St. Lawrence." 

9 See, however, Estaing's "Addresse a tous anciens Francois de 
l'Amrique septentrionale" of Oct., 1778: "I shall not urge a 
whole people that to join the United States is to secure their 
own happiness; since a whole people . . . must know their own 
interest; but I will declare and I now formally declare in the 
name of His Majesty . . . that all his former subjects in North 
America who shall no more acknowledge the supremacy of Great 
Britain may depend upon his protection and support." The Con- 
tinental Journal and Weekly Advertiser (Boston), Dec. 3, 1778. 
See further, Doniol, III. 417-25. 


they have of the friendship and alliance of the king, and 
that it is not to his interest to destroy such a feeling. 10 

In the views thus expressed Vergennes was forti- 
fied in the course of the months following by the 
similar views communicated in Spain's behalf by 
Montmorin. 11 As it chanced, however, at this 
very time La Fayette was perfecting in conjunc- 
tion with a committee of Congress a plan for a 
joint campaign in Canada by the allies. Com- 
menting upon the plan, Vergennes wrote Gerard 
thus: "I will confide to you, but to yourself 
alone, that the opinion of Spain is that it will be 
advantageous to reserve Canada and Acadia to 
Great Britain, and you feel yourself that we 
ought to be far from contradicting her. . . . 
But, I repeat, it is for circumstances to confirm 
or modify our views." 12 The final disposition of 

10 76., III. 156-7. Note also the extracts furnished by the Count 
d'Estaing from his Instructions, to Gerard: "7 e chef Requis 
que je dois faire de contribuer a la conqueste du Canada autre- 
ment que par une croisere et par des attaques des posttes. . . . 
3 e chef . . . chaque expression dSsigne la r6pugnance que le Roy a 
pour cette enterprise." 76., 237-9. See also Vergennes to Mont- 
morin, Oct. 30: "Nous ne d^sirons pas a beaucoup pres que la 
nouvelle rdpublique qui s'eleve demeure maitresse exclusive de 
tout cet immense continent." Accordingly Canada and Nova 
Scotia should remain with England in order to make the Ameri- 
cans feel the need "de s'assur6r des garants, des allies, et des pro- 
tecteurs." Ib., 561. See also SMSS., Nos. 872 and 891. 

u 76., 557 and 616. 

13 Nov. 18, 1778, 6., IV. 43 footnote 3 ; and to same effect is ib., 
III. 616. See also Adolphe de Circourt, Histoire de I' Alliance et 
de I' Action commune de la France et de I'Amerique (Paris, 1876, 


the question was somewhat curious. The plan 
mentioned having been referred to Washington, 
the commander-in-chief reported against it. Of- 
ficially and publicly he based his objection upon 
the impossibility of furnishing sufficient forces 
for the expedition, but in a confidential letter to 
the president of Congress he also voiced the fear 
of offering France the temptation of reestab- 
lishing her power in a country filled with the 
memory of her, whose customs, morals, religion, 
habits of government, everything, recalled her, 
and the possession of which would be valuable to 
her in many ways, especially in the facility it 
would afford "of controlling these states, the 
natural and most formidable rival of every mari- 
time power in Europe." 13 

But after all, Canada, the Floridas, the fish- 

3 vols.). The work is a translation of vol. X of Bancroft's His- 
tory, of the edition of 1874, with added notes and documents. 
Here, vol. III. pp. 263-4, Vergennes, writing Gerard under date 
of Dec. 25, 1778, says: "You have done wisely to elude the over- 
tures made you concerning Halifax and Quebec. Your instruc- 
tions embody the king's way of thinking upon this subject; and 
His Majesty has changed the less because he has reason to believe 
that it enters into the policy of Spain as well as in ours, to main- 
tain the English in possession of Nova Scotia and of Canada." 
M. Doniol would make Spain originally responsible for the idea 
of leaving Canada in England's hands, but in this he is clearly 

"Washington the President of Congress, Nov. 14, 1778, Writ- 
ings of Washington (Ed. Sparks, Boston, 1834, 12 vs.), VI. 
106-10. Later, however, Washington changed his opinion on this 
subject. See Doniol. IV. 565; also ch. XIII, infra. 


eries, and even the form that British recognition 
should take, are matters more or less by the way. 
For either France did not transgress her engage- 
ments with the United States with reference to 
them, at least to any very easily definable extent, 
or else she candidly took the United States into 
her confidence and asked their cooperation. The 
one point, and the only one, at which there was 
flat incompatibility, technically at least, between 
the Treaty of February 6th, 1778, and the engage- 
ments subsequently incurred by His Most Chris- 
tian Majesty with Spain was the stipulation by 
the secret Convention of Aranjuez, that France 
should make no peace without the consent of 
Spain, which was fortified by the further and 
more definite stipulation that the war should con- 
tinue until His Catholic Majesty had obtained 
Gibraltar. Thus was the purpose of the war, in 
which the United States were already bound to 
remain to the end, altered and enlarged, not only 
without their consent, but without their knowl- 
edge. 14 Having failed in her efforts to ally with 
one another the powers with which she herself 
was allied, France bound the two to one an- 
other's fortunes by conditioning peace-making in 
all cases upon her own consent, but while the re- 
lation thus created between France and the 
United States was known to Spain, the analo- 

14 That it was the purport of Florida Blanca's program to 
"alter the object of the war" is stated by Montmorin, &., III. 48T. 


gous relation between Spain and France was 
unknown to the United States. 

And this discrepancy, of which the United 
States were contingently the victim, is thrown 
into even higher light when we turn to the 
history of M. Gerard's early months at Philadel- 
phia. Here Louis' representative found upon 
his arrival a widespread belief that the United 
States could make peace at any time with Eng- 
land, provided only they did not renounce their 
independence. 15 The source of the idea is not 
far to seek. It was the commissioners' letter of 
December 18th, which was written at the period 
when the French government was negotiating 
for the amity and commerce of the Colonies, but 
not their active alliance. But the later treaty, 
which however in July had not yet been pub- 
lished in America, proceeded of course along 
quite different lines. As soon, therefore, as Ver- 
gennes learned the state of belief in the United 
States on the subject of peace-making, as he did 
from some American newspapers even before 
Gerard had reached Philadelphia, he penned the 
latter a despatch ordering him preemptorily to 
"destroy an opinion . . . which would reverse 
the whole system upon which our Treaty of Al- 
liance rests." 16 

This despatch reached Gerard early in August. 

"/&., III. 277-84. 

"/&., 284. See further ib., 399-401, and IV. 17-34. 


At the same moment, with the arrival of Deane 
in Philadelphia, whither he had been summoned 
by Congress, the famous Deane-Lee controversy 
broke forth, over the question whether the Col- 
onies were under any obligation to pay for the 
supplies that had been furnished them through 
Hortalez and Company. Deane, who had made 
a contract with Beaumarchais guaranteeing pay- 
ment, contended that Congress was bound to live 
up to this agreement, while Lee asserted that 
these supplies had been intended by the French 
government as gratuities and that Hortalez and 
Company had been a mere device to conceal 
French assistance under the guise of commerce, 
and further insinuated that Deane and Beau- 
marchais were in conspiracy to defraud Con- 
gress. 17 The merits of the controversy are di- 
vided. Lee was certainly right as to the supplies 
purchased with the money that had been con- 
tributed by the Bourbon kings, 18 but was quite 

"For references on this topic see Chapter III. notes 27 and 
42; also Letters of Richard Henry Lee (Ed. J. C. Ballagh, N. Y., 
1911-4, 2 vols.), I. 373-5, 457-63, II. 1-203, passim. 

"Note in this connection the following words from Louis' 
letter to Charles, of January 8, 1778: "Je ne parle pas des 
secours d'argent et autres, que nous leurs avons donn6s, le tout 
etant passe sur le compte du commerce." Doniol, II. 713. The 
king's intention, therefore, with reference to the million livres 
which were entrusted to Beaumarchais in June, 1776, seems clear: 
he meant it as a gift to the Colonies. Vergennes, on the other 
hand, was perhaps not unwilling that Beaumarchais should have 
it, in return for his services to the Foreign Office. See Wharton, 
I. 376-84; also, M. D. Conway in the Athenaeum, 1900, pt. I. 305-7. 


unwarrantably suspicious of Deane's motives, 
while Deane was right as to the balance of the 
supplies, which was a considerable one. The 
French government, however, which at this very 
moment was defending itself before Europe 
against the indignant charges of the British gov- 
ernment, of having clandestinely aided the Col- 
onies while the two powers were still ostensibly 
at peace, could not afford to admit that Lee was 
right to any extent. The result was that Gerard 
soon took up the cudgels for Deane, with the na- 
tural result of offending Lee's brother, Richard 
Henry, who revenged himself by blocking all the 
envoy's attempts to get a declaration from Con- 
gress on the subject of a separate peace. 18 * For- 
tunately for Gerard, early in January Thomas 
Paine, who was secretary of Congress, published 
some articles in the Pennsylvania Packet, sus- 
taining Lee's case with citations from official 
documents, which action forced Congress to de- 
clare its position on both issues at once. On 
January 12th, accordingly, it passed a resolution 
disavowing Paine's lucubrations and declaring 

" For Lee's change of opinion of Ge>ard in consequence of the 
latter's intervention in behalf of Deane, vd. his Letters, I. 423, 
427, II. 114, 119-20, and 124. Gerard's endeavor, however, to 
fasten upon Lee the stigma of disloyalty to the alliance falls 
flat in light of the evidence. See especially Lee's letter of De- 
cember 16, 1778, to the Pennsylvania General Advertiser, ib., 457- 
62, where he satisfactorily explains his relations with the British 
agent Berkenhout and his sentiments on the subject of a separate 


itself convinced "by the most inolisputable evi- 
dence" that the supplies furnished by Hortalez 
and Company "were not a present" and that 
"His Most Christian Majesty . . . did not pre- 
face his alliance with any supplies whatever sent 
to America"; and two days later it disavowed 
explicitly the notion of a separate peace. 19 

In other words, it was settled, and by the stren- 
uous insistence of the French government itself, 
that Congress could agree to no peace or truce 

19 Journals of the Continental Congress, XIII. 54-5, 62-3. 
"Whereas it hath been represented to this House by the Hon. Sieur 
Gerard, minister plenipotentiary of France, 'that it is pretended the 
United States have preserved the liberty of treating with Great 
Britain separately from their ally, as long as Great Britain shall 
not have declared war against the king, his master'; therefore, 
Resolved, unanimously, That as neither France or these United 
States may of right, so these United States will not, conclude 
either truce or peace with the common enemy, without the formal 
consent of their ally first obtained." It will be noted that 
the advocates of a separate peace finally based their case on 
the fact that there had never been a formal declaration of 
war upon France by Great Britain. The resolution which Gerard 
had desired to see adopted reprobated the condemned opinion 
very strongly, but it was superseded by the resolution just quoted, 
p. 62. The action of Congress, nevertheless, elicited some criti- 
cism. Thus a writer in the Pennsylvania Packet of Mar. 18, 1779, 
while denouncing the Lees as men of "base principles," charges 
that M. G6rard has altered the Treaty of Alliance from its orig- 
inal form. The charge is repeated in the same journal of Apr. 
8, where great disfavor is expressed with the treaty with France 
as compared with the one published "in our papers" nine months 
earlier. "In the first treaty, by one of the articles America had 
the right to withdraw herself from the war, provided she did not 
relinquish her independence." 


with Great Britain though it might "listen to 
overtures" without the consent of France; while 
three months later, France agreed, in turn, that 
she would not consent to such a peace or truce till 
Spain would do the same, or at any rate, till 
Spain had obtained Gibraltar. Nor is M. Don- 
iol's contention that the two developments were 
quite unconnected in the conscious intention of 
the French government necessarily sound simply 
because the Congressional interpretation of the 
Treaty of February 6th came first, since Ver- 
gennes was well aware from a much earlier date 
that Spain would enter the war only on condition 
that her objectives be made a sine qua non of 
peace. And that the two developments were con- 
nected in practical effect is obvious. 

But, then, did the French government by ac- 
ceding to the Treaty of Aranjuez commit any- 
thing worse than a merely technical breach of its 
engagements with the United States? Did it 
not, on the contrary, take a step that was actually 
beneficial to the United States in forwarding the 
cause of independence? For though Spain her- 
self was not allied with the United States, yet 
once she had entered the war her forces were 
turned against the common enemy. To begin 
with, I think it highly questionable whether, all 
things considered, Spanish aid really paid for 
itself. Thus the opportunities of the campaign 

19 Doniol, III. 762, fn. 2. 


of 1778, when American enthusiasm for the al- 
liance was fresh and the new French marine was 
in the pink of condition, were frittered away to 
no small extent because of the French govern- 
ment's efforts to accommodate its course to the 
exigencies of the Spanish monarch's whimsy 
mediation. 20 Again, the campaign of 1779 
netted nothing, largely because France yielded 
again to Spain's views, which were for an inva- 
sion of England. 21 Again, in 1780 Spain, save 
for the forces she maintained at Minorca, in the 
Floridas, and along the Mississippi, was practi- 
cally out of the war. 22 Only in 1781, when the 
siege of Gibraltar was formed, was Spain's as- 
sistance more than negligible, when indeed it was 
not worse. In short, Montmorin's prediction that 
Spain's demands would be more embarrassing 
than her help was worth was substantially 
fulfilled. 23 

Waiving, however, the question of the value of 
Spanish aid, can it yet be contended that the 
Convention of Aranjuez signified any real danger 
to American interests? Verbally the United 

20 See, for instance, Montmorin to Vergennes, June 22, 1778, ib., 
472-3; also ib., 503-7 and 590. 

21 Ib., IV. 322-4. Florida Blanca was of the opinion that "it 
was possible to strike the English so they would feel it only in 
England," ib., III. 674. Charles III was convinced that the war 
must begin with a grand coup such as a descent upon England, ib., 
665. See also Florida Blanca's plan of operations of Feb. 26, 1779, 
ib., 688-91. For La Fayette's connection with the plan of descent 
and the failure of the project, see i6., IV. ch. V. 

a The Spanish court was at this time engaged in informal and 


States were bound by article VIII of the Treaty 
of Alliance not to make peace till France gave 
the word, but morally their obligation would be 
fulfilled the moment Great Britain was willing 
to accord them independence and their ally an 
unconditional peace; and certainly Vergennes 
himself must have foreseen that the Americans, 
despite the secrecy of the Treaty of Aranjuez, 
would not be easily hoodwinked into prolonging 
the war once England manifested a disposition 
to grant the terms just described. The real dan- 
ger of the Convention of Aranjuez from the 
point of view of American interests sprang from 
its secrecy taken in connection with the fact that 
France was to exert a powerful influence upon 

unavowed negotiations with the English emissary Richard Cum- 
berland, Lord George Germaine's private secretary. See ch. XII, 

23 For a rather more favorable estimate of Spanish participation 
in the war, see Francois Rousseau in Revue des Questions his- 
toriques, LXXII. 444 ff. See also Florida Blanca's "Apology" 
for his administration, William Coxe, Memoirs of the Kings of 
Spain (London, 1813, 3 vols.), I. App., 331-44. Even in Congress, 
which on the whole was not favorably disposed toward her, Spain 
had one or two defenders. Thus we find Witherspoon of New 
Jersey saying, in Aug., 1782: "Some gentlemen had underrated 
the services of Spain. She had done much. She had entered into 
the war with the common enemy. We had derived as much ad- 
vantage from her exertions as if she had agreed to the treaty of 
Alliance. . . . Besides this she had aided us with money, opened 
her ports, and admitted us to trade to Havannah," Thomson 
Papers (N. Y. Hist'l Soc. Cols., 18T8), pp. 90-1. See also a 
speech by Madison to much the same effect early in 1783, Writings 
(Ed. Hunt), I. 418-9. 


Congress in shaping the terms upon which that 
body would consent to peace. For at the out- 
set it was a compensating consideration that, in 
proportion as Vergennes had insisted upon the 
indispensability of France's consent to America's 
making peace, so by the same token, he had in- 
sisted upon the indispensability of America's 
consent to France's making peace, and had there- 
fore bound himself to give respectful heed to the 
American interpretation of the reciprocal en- 
gagements of the allies. Eventually, however, by 
the Instructions of June 15th, 1781, Congress 
surrendered outright to the French ministers the 
control thus given it over the final peace. There 
can be little doubt, I think, that Congress' ig- 
norance of the Treaty of Aranjuez ought to be 
reckoned as one of the circumstances explaining 
this surrender. 24 

The issue thus finally becomes whether the 
Instructions of June 15th were in the circum- 
stances a menace to American interests and this 
issue can wait. For the moment, we turn back to 
review briefly the story of the ultimatum of April 
3rd, 1779, upon the rejection of which by Great 
Britain the Convention of Aranjuez still left 
Spain's entrance into the war contingent. 

Great Britain's answer to the suggestion of a 

"See Chapter XIII, infra. 


truce involving a tacit recognition of American 
independence and her evacuation of American 
territory did not reach Madrid till March 27th, 
but when it at last arrived it was found to be 
explicit to the point of insult: Great Britain 
could not recognize the right of France "to con- 
found her own affairs with the pretended inter- 
ests of those whom she affects to call her allies," 
or to dictate "in what manner His Britannic 
Majesty should exercise his liberty of reestablish- 
ing his authority over his own dominions." 25 Yet 
notwithstanding this language, which he admitted 
was "hardly satisfactory," Florida Blanca, plead- 
ing as always the necessity of continuing the 
deception of England, 26 proceeded to draft the 
ultimatum just referred to. In essence, what 
this ultimatum proposed was a truce of indefinite 
duration in America during the continuance of 
which England should remain in possession of 
the territory she still held there, including New 
York City and Rhode Island. 27 Vergennes' dis- 
may at these propositions, when he learned of 
them on April 12th, may be imagined: "The 
more we examine them and weigh them," he wrote 
Montmorin, "the less do we see any way of recon- 
ciling them with what the king owes himself or 
his new allies." Nor, unfortunately was this the 
worst of the matter, for by leaving the British 
forces mingled with the American population at 

^Doniol, III. 746-8. 

39 Ib., 748-9. 

27 Montmorin to Vergennes, Mar. 29, ib., 798-9. 


some of its most important centers, the Spanish 
proposals still kept open a way for England's 
conciliation of her alienated subjects. "Endea- 
vor, I pray you," he continued earnestly, "to pre- 
vent any further condescensions of the sort, for 
they can only be fatal to the dignity of the king, 
and the humiliation resulting from them the 
king his uncle will necessarily share." 28 On April 
12th, 20th, and 29th and again on May 14th, 
Vergennes gave vent to vehement and even bitter 
protestations against the action that the Spanish 
government had so unwarrantably taken, in the 
very face of its repeated promise "to guard the 
honor of France as it would that of its own crown 
and country." 29 But one thing Vergennes had 
not counted upon the obstinacy of the king of 
England, who, blissfully unaware that he had 
been presented with the opportunity of shatter- 
ing not only the French- American alliance but 
the Family Compact as well, still adhered to his 
resolution to bring his rebellious subjects to their 
knees. On May 17th, Montmorin, breathing 
a sigh of relief, wrote Vergennes that England 
had repelled the Spanish ultimatum and that the 
Spanish fleet would soon join the French. Yet 
Montmorin's despatch containing this welcome 
news sounded also the now familiar note of warn- 
ing: "We ought however not conceal from our- 

M 76., 767-8. 

"Loc. cit. and pp. 770 and 801-3. 


selves, Monsieur, how little interest Spain takes 
in the United States of America; we shall cer- 
tainly have evidence of this in the course of the 
war but especially when the question shall arise 
of concluding peace." 30 

80 76., 771. Beaumarchais in writing Vergennes commented upon 
Spain's entry into the war in characteristic vein: "Si le livre est 
aussi fort que la preface a 6t6 longue, nous devons voir de belles 
choses de cette nation-la; mais, je ne sais pourquoi, j'ai toujours 
un petit glacon dans le coin de ma cervelle 6tiquet Espagne. 
J'ai beau faire, je ne parviens pas a ^chauffer cette idee-la," ib., 
IV. 446. 



The claim of the United States during the 
Revolution to extend to the Mississippi was based 
upon both sentiment and interest. Rebels against 
the authority of the British Empire could not have 
taken an impoverished view of their future; and 
at the beginning of the war at least the spirit of 
Continentalism, forerunner of Manifest Des- 
tiny, was abroad in the land. The Earl of Cork 
had proclaimed that "the ball of empire was roll- 
ing westward and would stop in America" and 
the prophecy was now repeated, while in confir- 
mation of it were cited "the growing millions of 
western world." That such a spirit should treat 
the idea of being "shut up within the Mountains" 
with impatience was inevitable. 1 

1 The Earl of Cork's words are reminiscent, perhaps, of Bishop 
Berkeley's famous lines in his essay on The Prospect of Planting 
Arts and Learning in America: 

"Westward the course of empire takes it way; 
The first four acts already past, 
A fifth shall close the drama with the day: 
Time's noblest offspring is the last." 
One of the earliest forecasts by an American of the "manifest 


And the view that sprang in the first place 
from enthusiasm found ready support from sober 
calculation. The original belief seems to have 

destiny" of this continent was that of John Adams, in a letter 
written in 1755: "Soon after the Reformation a few people came 
over into this new world for conscience sake. Perhaps this 
apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire 
into America. It looks likely to me: for if we can remove the 
turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to exactest computations, 
will in another century become more numerous than England itself. 
Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval 
stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain the 
mastery of the seas; and then the united force of Europe will not 
be able to subdue us." Life and Works of John Adams (Boston, 
1856, 10 vols.), I. 23. The prophecy of naval supremacy for 
America is strikingly like that of Vergennes twenty years later: 
vd. supra, ch. Ill, 67-8 and note. Less than three years after 
Adams, James Wolfe was writing his mother from Louisbourg, 
thus: "These colonies are deeply tinged with the vices and bad 
qualities of the mother country; and, indeed, many parts of it are 
peopled with those that the law or necessity has forced upon it. 
Notwithstanding these disadvantages, . . . this will, some time 
hence, be a vast empire, the seat of power and learning." Beckles 
Willson, The Life and Letters of James Wolfe (London, 1909), 
p. 395. The outbreak of the Revolution naturally enhanced the 
vision of imperial greatness entertained by the friends of America. 
In this connection various expressions in Dr. Richard Price's fa- 
mous pamphlet entitled Observations on the Nature of Civil 
Liberty and the Principles of Government and the Justice and 
Policy of the War with America (London, 1776) are interesting: 
see pp. 21 ffg. Price concludes that, "It is probable that the 
Americans in fifty or sixty years will be double our number and 
form a mighty empire consisting of a variety of states, all equal 
or superior to ourselves." In the same connection an extract from 
the Antigua Gazette of Sept. 10, 1777, is interesting. In what 
purports to be a "Circular Letter" delivered by a ministerial 
messenger to the different foreign ambassadors resident at Lon- 


been, at any rate it was the view of Franklin 
and Deane, that the lands west of the Mountains 
were subject to the disposal of Congress to meet 
the expenses of the common effort. 2 Later, with 

don, warning is given that it is obviously "the common interest of 
Europe to annihilate America," which is destined to rival all 
countries in production, to undermine their commerce by means 
of free navigation, and to draw off their population in the way of 
emigration. The British territory in America is estimated at 
718,592,000 acres, capable of supporting 145,918,400 people, or 
twenty-six million more than Europe. The phrase above quoted, 
"the growing millions of the western world," is from a letter in 
the Pennsylvania Packet, No. 144, postscript. See also in the 
same journal, No. 147, an extract from a sermon by John 
Lathrop, American pastor of the Second Church in Boston: 
"America has every natural advantage. ... A coast three thous- 
and miles in length and a breadth as yet unexplored. . . . The 
united wisdom of North America should be collected in a 
general congress of all the colonies." The date of the sermon was 
June 6, 1774. See also the Boston Evening Post and General 
Advertiser of June 26, 1779: "We are now upon the stage of 
America, have an arduous task to perform, we act not only for 
ourselves but for remotest posterity. The political misery or 
happiness of millions unborn depends on the conduct of our 
public measures at this day." These words occur in a plea in 
support of the right of Congress "to ascertain and fix the limits 
of those states that claim to the Mississippi or South Sea." 

2 The first form of the Articles of Confederation as reported to 
Congress was in the hand of Franklin. Article XI of this draft 
provided that all purchases of lands from Indians were to be 
made only with the consent of Congress, that Congress was to 
have authority to determine Indian boundaries, and that "all 
purchases from them [the Indians] by Congress [were to be] for 
the general advantage and benefit of the United Colonies," Com- 
plete Works of Benjamin Franklin (Ed. Bigelow, N. Y., 1887-8, 
10 vols.), V. 552-3. Article XVIII further gave Congress the 
power to limit "the bounds of those Colonies which by charter or 
proclamation, or under any pretence are said to extend to the 


the rise of the principle of State Sovereignty, nar- 
rower views obtained sway and the conviction 
became general that these lands were the prop- 
erty of particular states. Yet even so, all states 
still retained an interest in having these lands 
kept open to settlement by their citizens and in 
seeing their frontiers secure, both of which ob- 
jects would have been jeopardized had a foreign 
power obtained control of the region in question 
and of the Indian tribes there. Finally, by yet 
another turn of the wheel of public opinion, from 
1781 on the prospect developed that the states 
credited with the sovereignty and ownership of 
these lands would surrender their claims to the 
Confederacy at large. Once more the interest of 
all states in seeing the American title established 
became what it originally had been. 

What, then, was this title? As I have just 
hinted, it was twofold: that of the American Peo- 

South Sea." This clause gave rise to a debate, Aug. 2, 1776, 
which marks the beginning of the struggle between the "land- 
less" states, headed by Maryland, and the "landed" states, headed 
by Virginia, and which ended five years later in the acts of cession 
of western territory to the Confederacy. Chase of Maryland 
"denied that any colony has a right to go to the South Sea." 
Harrison of Virginia thereupon inquired, "How came Maryland 
by its land, but by its charter," and added: "By its charter, 
Virginia owns to the South Sea." Huntington of Connecticut 
was all against "mutilating charters." Stone of Maryland con- 
tended for the right of the small colonies to "happiness and 
security," and that "they would have no safety if the great 
colonies were not limited." The clause was stricken out in 
committee. Life and Works of John Adams, II. 501-2. 


pie to the region in question, and that of certain 
states. True, these two titles were mutually 
conflicting, and true also, the peculiar titles of 
some of the states conflicted with those of other 
states; and doubtless, if the matter were one to 
be resolved dialectically, this fact would have ser- 
ious consequences. The question raised, however, 
is not one of logic but of law; and it has accord- 
ingly to be remembered that in the analogous 
case of real estate, titles that conflict are often 
consolidated to produce a title that is unimpeach- 
able. It is therefore not inconceivable that while, 
on the one hand, no state had a perfect title 
against either the United States or her sister 
states to western domain, yet, on the other hand, 
the titles of all parties combined exhausted the 
legal rights to the region. 

The states that held individual claims to do- 
main west of the Mountains were Massachusetts, 
Connecticut, New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, 
and Georgia. The claims of Massachusetts, Con- 
necticut and New York were confined to terri- 
tory north of the Ohio river; that of Virginia, 
the most sweeping of all, was to the whole of this 
territory, and also to the region south of the Ohio 
that today comprises the state of Kentucky ; those 
of the Carolinas and Georgia were, roughly, to 
the lands lying between their present western 
boundaries and the Mississippi river. The foun- 
dation for these claims, save that of New York 


who based hers on a pretended overlordship over 
the Iroquois Indians and their conquests, was in 
all cases furnished by the "sea-to-sea" clauses 
of the colonial charters as curtailed by the Treaty 
of 1763, which made the Mississippi river the 
western boundary of British America. 8 As I 

As noted immediately below, England based her case against 
France in the dispute leading to the last French and Indian war 
partly upon the colonial charters, and undoubtedly this dis- 
pute more than anything else made the colonies aware and confi- 
dent of their charter claims to the Mississippi boundary. Yet 
it is interesting to observe that the English cartographer Bollan 
complained that his predecessors, Popple (in 1732), Keith (in 
1733), Oldmixon (in 1741), Moll (at several dates), and Bowen 
(in 1747) had all been recreant to British interests, Winsor, 
Mississippi Basin, p. 331. The rising dispute, however, soon 
registered itself in the views of the mapmakers. Thus Bowen's 
map of 1749 is entitled: "A Map of the British- American Plan- 
tations . . . including all the back settlements in the respective 
provinces as far as the Mississippi." The famous Mitchell Map 
of 1755 also recorded British official pretensions, which in turn 
were supported by citations of Mitchell's and Bowen's maps. 
On the other hand, Evans' map of the same year set the western 
boundary of Virginia at the Mountains; while as late as 1777, 
French mapmakers applied the term "Louisiana" to the region 
between the AUeghenies and the Mississippi. See generally 
Winsor's Narrative and Critical History, V. 79-86, and 235. Cer- 
tain other occurrences also, lying between 1754 and the outbreak 
of the Revolution, tended to confirm Virginia's charter preten- 
tions. Thus Governor Dinwiddie, in 1754, made promises of land 
to the Virginia soldiers, while a convocation of the chiefs of 
the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians at Charleston the same year 
recognized the right of the Virginia and Carolina governments 
to establish magazines among them, and certain other rights of 
apparent suzerainty. The legal significance of the Proclamation 
of 1763, restraining settlements westward of the mountains, is 
doubtful (see infra), but the discussion concerning it was calcu- 


have just pointed out, the fact that these claims 
in some instances overlapped was not necessarily 
fatal to them as against third parties. There 
were other obstacles to their admission, however, 
that were more formidable. 

The two nations against whose pretensions it 
was requisite for the states to secure their claims 
were Spain and Great Britain. The latter power, 

lated again to arouse public attention to the question of where 
the western boundary of the colonies lay. Also, the Proclamation 
was constantly being transgressed or officially waived. "I have 
had, my Lord," wrote Lord Dunmore in his Report to Lord 
Dartmouth of December 24, 1774, "frequent opportunities to re- 
flect upon the emigrating spirit of the Americans since my 
arrival to this government. There are considerable bodies of 
inhabitants settled at greater and less distances from the regular 
frontiers of, I believe, all the colonies. In this colony, procla- 
mations have been published from time to time to restrain them; 
but impressed from their earliest infancy with sentiments and 
habits very different from those acquired by persons of a similar 
condition in England, they do not conceive that government has 
any right to forbid their taking possession of a vast tract of 
country, either uninhabited or which serves only as a shelter to 
a few scattered tribes of Indians. Nor can they be easily brought 
to entertain any belief of the permanent obligation of treaties 
made with those people, whom they consider as but little re- 
moved from brute creation." R. G. Thwaites and Louise P. 
Kellogg, Documentary History of Dunmore's War, p. 371. See also 
ib., pp. 369-70 and footnote 91, also p. 5, footnote 8, for data 
with reference to the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) and the 
Walpole Grant of 1769, both of which transgressed the principle 
of the Proclamation of 1763. On the eve of the Revolution oc- 
curred Lord Dunmore's War which gave rise to an acrimonious 
dispute between Dunmore and the proprietary governor of Penn- 
sylvania, John Penn, with reference to Virginia's western claims. 
It was the forerunner of later disputes, in the course of the 
Revolution, between the states with fixed western boundaries and 


having urged the charter rights of the colonies in 
partial support of her own claims against France 
anterior to the Seven Years' War, was perhaps 
estopped from denying that those rights had been 
all that she had once asserted them to be. The 
Treaty of 1763, however, had been followed by 
the Royal Proclamation of the same year, forbid- 
ding the colonial governors to make further 
grants of land in the region west of the Alle- 
ghenies. 4 The question therefore arises whether 

those claiming to extend to the Mississippi. Dunmore, in his 
Proclamation of Sept. 17, 1774, asserted that Virginia's "ancient 
claim" was "founded in reason, upon pre-occupancy, and the 
general acquiescense of all persons," but makes no mention of 
Virginia's charter rights, Force's American Archives, 4th series, 
I. 790-1. Finally, in the Virginia Constitution of 1776, it is pro- 
vided that "the western and northern extent of Virginia shall in 
all respects stand as fixed by the charter of King James I in the 
year 1609 and by the public peace between the courts of Great 
Britain and France in the year 1763." For Virginia's champion- 
ship of the charter claims and Maryland's opposition to them, see 
Collections of the New York Historical Society, 1878 (Thom- 
son Papers), passim. 

4 The text of the Proclamation of 1763 is to be found in the 
Annual Register for that year, pp. 208-13, and in Force's Ameri- 
can Archives, 4th series, I. 171-5. The salient clause is the follow- 
ing: "We do ... declare it to be our royal will and pleasure 
. . . that no governor or commander-in-chief of our other col- 
onies or plantations in America do presume for the present, and 
until our further pleasure be known, to grant warrant of survey 
or pass patents for any lands beyond the heads or sources of any 
of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic from the west or north- 
west; or upon any lands whatsoever which, not having been 
ceded to or purchased by us, as aforesaid, are reserved to the said 
Indians or any of them." The line actually drawn by Hills- 


it was the purpose of the Proclamation to set a 
definite western boundary to such provinces as 
had thus far remained without one. The Amer- 
ican advocates contended that this was not the 
case, that the intention of the Proclamation had 
been "not to take away but to restrain an existing 
right," of which therefore it furnished formal offi- 
cial recognition. 5 But this opinion, it seems clear, 

borough in pursuance of the Proclamation made exception in 
favor of the Virginia settlements on the Great Kenawha. The 
ostensible purpose of the Proclamation was to pacify the In- 
dians, but Hillsborough in 1772 admitted another motive, viz., 
to keep the populace under the restraint of the seaboard authori- 
ties. A third motive, possibly, was to discredit the colonial 
charters. Winsor, Mississippi Basin, 430-1. Winsor also implies 
that the Proclamation met with some contemporary protest. 
"The party of progress," he says, "called it a tyrannous check 
on the inevitable expansion of the race." I am rather of opinion, 
however, that such criticisms came later, when the general argu- 
ment against England's American policy was being shaped up. 
This is certainly true of Burke's characterization of the Proclama- 
tion, quoted by Winsor as if contemporary, as an attempt "to 
keep a lair of wild beasts that earth which God, by an express 
charter, has given to the children of men." Both Washington 
and Franklin regarded the Proclamation to be, as its terms imply, 
a temporary measure, and this was probably the view generally 
held of it. 

6 Livingston to Franklin, Jan. 7, 1782, Wharton, V. 88. This 
important document is also to be found in the Complete Works 
of Benjamin Franklin, VII. 348 ff. Other important state- 
ments of the American argument on the territorial question are 
the "Instructions to Jay" of Oct. 17, 1780, in Journals of the 
Continental Congress, XVIII, 935 ff., and Writings of James 
Madison (Ed. Hunt), I. 82 ff.; and the "Facts and Observations 
in support of the several claims of the United States," presented 


runs counter to the evidence. Thus in 1772, when 
Franklin and some associates sought a grant from 
the Privy Council of a tract of land on the Ohio 
and the argument was brought forward that the 
proposed grant contained "part of the dominion 
of Virginia to the south of the river Ohio," it was 
answered "that no part of the above tract is to 
the eastward of the Allegheny mountains and that 
those mountains must be considered as the true 
westward boundary of Virginia"; and this argu- 
ments prevailed with the council* Two years 
later moreover the Quebec Act was passed with 
the proviso "that nothing herein contained rela- 
tive to the boundary of the province of Quebec 
shall in any wise affect the boundaries of any 
other colony," notwithstanding which the south- 
ern boundary of the province was drawn along 
the Ohio. 7 We may admit the American conten- 
tion that, since the Quebec Act was itself one of 
the causes of the Revolution, "to build anything 
upon it would be to urge one wrong in support of 

to Congress, Aug. 16, 1782, Journals of the Continental Congress, 
XXIII. 471-524, and Thomson Papers, 102-41. 

Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin, V. 3 and 25-35. The 
opposition to the proposed grant was headed by Lord Hills- 
borough, President of the Lords of Trade. The authorship of 
the answer to Hillsborough's representations is usually ascribed 
to Franklin, but Professor C. W. Alvord contends that its author 
was Samuel Wharton of Philadelphia. See the Nation, XCIX. 
220-1. Wharton may have stood sponser for the answer and yet 
Franklin have been the author of it. 

7 Force's American Archives, 4th Series, I. 216-20. 


another." 8 Nevertheless, the evidential value of 
the act as to the meaning of the Proclamation 
of 1763, the validity of which was never ques- 
tioned, still remains. 

And as against Spain the claims of the Ameri- 
can states were weaker still. Spain desired, first, 
to keep the Americans back from her own posses- 
sions, and secondly, to restore her monopoly of 
trade on the Gulf of Mexico; 9 to both of which 
ends it was essential that she should withhold from 
the Americans the right, which in 1763 she had 
accorded the subjects of Great Britain, 10 of navi- 

Wharton, V. 88. In the debate on the Quebec Bill, Dunning 
contended that the measure was inconsistent with England's posi- 
tion in the Seven Years' War. "Consider," he said, 'Svhat it was 
for which you engaged in the last war: encroachments of the 
French upon our colonies. . . . You repelled force by force. 
They offered to you to withdraw from the south of the Ohio and 
retire to the north, making that river the boundary of the two 
colonies. No, you replied, the river of St. Lawrence is the 
boundary of Canada; . . . the tracts which you claim are parts 
of our colonies of Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc.; and we cannot 
grant away the certain and undoubted right of our subjects in 
such a manner." Yet this was precisely what Parliament was 
doing by the Quebec Bill: it was merging with Canada what 
England had always contended was no part of Canada. The 
Attorney-General, Thurlow, answered Dunning thus: "It is 
success in war that gives success in peace, and by no means the 
imaginary line drawn by a state in its colonies; nor have the 
limits now drawn anything to do with old Canada; ... it is a 
new scheme, and by no means a restoration of those old limits the 
French once contended for." Parliamentary History, XVII. 
1359 ff. 

See Chapter XIV. 

10 Art. VII of the Treaty of Feb. 10, 1763: "Provided that the 


gating the Mississippi through Louisiana to its 
mouth. For by denying the Americans this right, 
so obviously essential to an agricultural popula- 
tion between the Mountains and the River, she 
would discourage the further immigration of 
Americans westward; while she would also be 
taking an excellent preventive measure against 
the appearance of American smugglers on the 
Gulf. And her desire to acquire the left bank 
of the Mississippi looked to the same ends. She 
had no use for the region simply as so much ter- 
ritory, but once it was hers, any question of 
American navigation of the Mississippi would be 

But now be it noted that, in order to achieve 
her purposes in the Mississippi country, all that 
was necessary for Spain to do at the outset was 
to assert, not a title of her own to the left bank 
of the River, but merely that of her enemy, Great 
Britain, which thereupon of course she would be 
free to acquire by conquest if she could. She, 
therefore, no less than Great Britain, was able 
to plead in her behalf the Proclamation of 1763, 
while, unlike Great Britain, she was not estopped 

navigation of the river Mississippi shall be equally free, as well 
to the subjects of Great Britain as to those of France, in its 
whole breadth and length, from its source to the sea, and ex- 
pressly that part which is between the said island of New Orleans 
and the right bank of that river, as well as the passage both in 
and out of its mouth." Chalmers, Collection of Treaties, I. 467- 
83; Martens, Recueil de TraiUs, I. 104-2L 


from contending that the British title to the West 
was itself founded on conquest. Indeed, this was 
a natural position for both herself and France to 
take, since in the Seven Years' War both had 
contested the British charter claims by force of 
arms, as France had previously done diplomati- 
cally. 11 And with reference to the navigation of 
the Mississippi the position of the Spanish gov- 
ernment was still more advantageous. The Amer- 
ican argument was that the British right in this 
respect had devolved upon the United States 
in their capacity as proprietors of the former 
British holdings along the River. 12 In other 
words, the American claim to this right depended 
at best upon the further claim, which Spain did 
not admit, of American proprietorship of the 
lands in question. But furthermore, the view 
that the British right to use the Mississippi within 
territory subject to Spain comprised a servitude 
for the benefit of all lands adjoining the Missis- 

u An extended presentation of the French case is to be found 
in the Memoire historique sur la Louisiane of 1802. See ch. I. 9-13 
and note. 

"This was so, it was urged, both because the grant of right 
made His Britannic Majesty by article VII of the Treaty of 
1763 was intended to run with the soil, was, in other words, an 
easement, and also because it was in accordance with the Law 
of Nature and of Nations, that the dwellers along the upper 
reaches of a river should have access to the sea through its 
lower reaches. See Journals of Continental Congress, XVIII. 
942-3; also American State Papers, I. 252-3, where the argu- 
ment is renewed by Jefferson as Secretary of State, 1792. 


sippi was rejected by Spain. The right which 
British subjects enjoyed to pass down the Mis- 
sissippi through New Orleans and Louisiana, she 
contended forcefully, was a privilege granted by 
His Catholic Majesty solely to His Britannic 
Majesty and would therefore not be claimable by 
the United States even though they should make 
good their claims to territory touching the Mis- 
sissippi to the northward. 18 

But the claim of the United States to extend 
to the Mississippi was also presented as the right 
of the American People. This argument rested 
upon the following propositions: first, that "the 
rights of the king of Great Britain to America 
were incident to his right of sovereignty over 
those of his subjects that settled America"; sec- 
ondly, that, since with the Declaration of Indepen- 

u See Vergennes' Instructions of July 18 and Sept. 25, 1779, 
to La Luzerne, infra; also Doniol, IV. 92. There can be little 
question that Spain's position in this controversy was the correct 
one at International Law. Thus, after considering the question 
"whether rights of navigation are possessed by states over rivers, 
or portions of rivers, not within their territory," in the light of the 
most important data, W. E. Hall concludes: "From the fore- 
going facts it appears . . . that where rivers flowing through 
more than one state are now open, they have usually at some 
time either been closed or their navigation has been subjected 
to restrictions or tolls of a kind implying that navigation by 
foreigners was not a right but a privilege; . . . and that the 
opening of a river, when it has taken place, having been effected 
either by convention or decree, has always been consistent with, 
and has sometimes itself formed, an assertion of the paramount 
right of property," International Law (5th ed., London, 1904), 


dence the right of sovereignty of the king of 
Great Britain over the people of America was 
forfeited, all rights founded in that sovereignty 
were forfeited with it; thirdly, that one such right 
was the right to the backlands of America. 14 The 

"Wharton, V. 88-9; Journals of the Continental Congress, 
XVIII. 936-7; Collections of the New York Historical Society, 
1878, pp. 138-9. The last citation gives the argument in the 
form in which it was presented on the floor of Congress, Aug. 16, 
1782. Arthur Lee and Bland of Virginia at once attacked it 
vigorously. "Congress," said the former, "had no authority but 
what it derived from the states. The states individually were 
sovereign and independent, and upon them alone devolved the 
rights of the Crown within their respective territories." This 
was the position of the charter states. The position of the "land- 
less states" was presented by Witherspoon of New Jersey, who 
first attacking the charter claims as mutually contradictory and 
conflicting and altogether extravagant, proceeded: "The several 
states were known to the powers of Europe only as one nation 
under the style and title of the United States. . . . Whether the 
uncultivated wilderness on the frontiers should belong to one 
state or another was a matter of little concern to the European 
powers. The only argument that would weigh with them was 
whether it was necessary for the security of the United States that 
other nations should be excluded from that country, and particu- 
larly Great Britain, the enemy of these states." On August 27, 
a petition was reported to Congress from the inhabitants of 
Kentucky, which, declaring that they considered themselves as 
"subjects of the United States and not of Virginia" and that 
"the charter under which Virginia claimed that country had been 
dissolved, asked Congress "to erect them into a separate and 
independent state and admit them into the federal Union," loc* 
cit. } p. 146. Lee declared that the countenance that had been 
given the petition was "an insult to Virginia." Madison character- 
ized "the supposition that the right of the crown devolved on the 
United States" as "so extravagant that it could not enter into 
the thoughts of any man," to which Witherspoon rejoined that it 


argument thus traversed the general opinion that 
it was not the American People but the American 
States that had succeeded to the sovereign rights 
of Great Britain, but by the same token it was the 
more accordant with the philosophy of the right 
of revolution, which is a right of populations and 
not of political units; and it also did justice to the 
claims of the "landless" states, of which Mary- 
land was the unyielding champion. 15 Diplomati- 
cally, too, it had the advantage of avoiding the 
difficulties that had their origin from the conflict 
of titles based on the colonial charters. On the 
other hand, plainly, it was adequate to establish 
the American title only as against powers that 
had recognized American independence, and 
Spain had not yet done this. 

The question of the abstract validity of the 
American claims in the West is, however, a mat- 
ter, after all, of secondary importance both in our 
own interest and in fact. Our interest is in the 
policy of France, which in turn was shaped with 
reference to these claims quite indifferently to 
speculative considerations. To anticipate some- 

evidently could, since it actually had entered into his own thoughts 
and also "the thoughts of the petitioners and into the thoughts of 
very many sensible men at the beginning of the present contro- 
versy," ib., 149. See also J. C. Welling in American Historical 
Association Papers, III. 167 if. 

15 See H. B. Adams, "Maryland's Influence upon Land Cessions 
to the United States," Johns Hopkins University Studies, III. 
pt. I. 


what the results of the inquiry to follow : So long 
as it was a question of pleasing the United States 
alone, France, having herself no territorial am- 
bitions on the American continent, accepted the 
American pretensions without demur. Later 
however arose, first, the problem of bringing 
Spain into the war and, secondly, the problem of 
securing peace with Great Britain, once that 
power was prepared to accord the main objec- 
tive of the war, namely American independence. 
Also, it was always a part of French calculations 
not to allow the United States to become too 
strong. The claims, therefore, that it had at first 
admitted, the French government came eventu- 
ally to repudiate. Several questions are thus 
raised: 1. Could France act thus consistently 
with her engagements with the United States? 
2. Was her repudiation supplemented by open 
championship of the interests of Spain along the 
Mississippi? 3. What light does her final atti- 
tude thrown upon the peace negotiations of 1782? 
In the pages to follow I shall endeavor to 
answer these questions. 

France's engagements with the United States 
touching the territorial possessions of the latter 
were defined by articles XI and XII of the 
Treaty of Alliance, which read as follows : 

XI The United States and France guarantee each 
to the other, the United States to His Most Christian 
Majesty his possessions in North America forever; His 


Most Christian Majesty to the United States their 
liberty, sovereignty, and independence, absolute and 
unlimited, as well in matters of government as of com- 
merce, and also their possessions, and the additions or 
conquests that their Confederation may obtain during 
the war from any of the dominions now or heretofore 
possessed by Great Britain in North America, con- 
formably to the 5th and 6th articles above written, the 
whole as their possessions shall be affixed and assured to 
the said states at the moment of the cessation of their 
present war with England. XII. In order to fix more 
precisely the sense and application of the preceding 
article, the contracting parties declare that, in the 
case of a rupture between France and England, the 
reciprocal guaranty declared in the said article shall 
have its full force and effect the moment such war shall 
break out ; and if such rupture shall not take place, the 
mutual obligations of the said guaranty shall not com- 
mence until the moment of the cessation of the present 
war between the United States and England shall have 
ascertained their possessions. 

The first question that arises with reference 
to these articles is whether "the reciprocal guar- 
anty" that by article XII was to be effective from 
the outbreak of the war between France and 
Great Britain extended to the possessions of the 
United States at that moment. The French gov- 
ernment, after its change of position with refer- 
ence to the pretensions of the United States in 
the West, contended that this guaranty extended 
only to the sovereignty and independence of the 
United States and that, with reference to the 
possessions and conquests of the United States, 


His Most Christian Majesty's guaranty was not 
to come into effect till these had been determined 
by the final treaty of peace. As to conquests 
there can of course be no doubt of the correctness 
of this view, for the reason that the subject- 
matter of the guaranty would come into exist- 
ence, if at all, only with the treaty of peace. The 
possessions of the United States, on the other 
hand, would at any particular moment, what 
there were of them, be part and parcel of the 
United States would, geographically speaking, 
comprise the United States. It was therefore not 
unreasonable, to say the least, for the American 
advocates to contend that the guaranty extended 
by the treaty to the sovereignty and indepen- 
dence of the United States, and admitted by 
France to be effective from the outbreak of war 
between France and Great Britain, extended 
also, from the necessity of things, to the posses- 
sions of the United States. Furthermore, the 
guaranty in question is spoken of as reciprocal. 
But unless it extended to the possessions of the 
two powers it was not reciprocal, since it was only 
certain possessions of France that the United 
States guaranteed by any view of the treaty. 
And such direct testimony as we have confirms 
this view of the matter. Thus, when the Ameri- 
can envoys saw that they could not get an uncon- 
ditional alliance and proposed, as a compromise, 
that the guaranty in the treaty of the indepen- 


dence and liberty of the United States should go 
into effect at once, Gerard, speaking in the name 
of the Foreign Office, repelled the suggestion by 
saying that the independence, liberty, and posses- 
sions of the United States must all stand on the 
same footing in this regard; that as to all alike 
the guaranty was contingent upon the outbreak 
of war. 15 * And the conclusion to be drawn from 
Vergennes' vehement protest against Florida 
Blanca's action in proposing the uti possidetis for 
the United States in April, 1779, is the same. 
This, the French secretary declared, menaced 
France's obligations to the United States at an 
essential point, which however was the case only 
on the assumption that France was already the 
guarantor of the territorial integrity of the 
United States. 16 

Yet suppose we admit, for the sake of the ar- 
gument, that France did guarantee the posses- 
sions of the United States "against all other 
powers" only from the close of the war, to what 
extent are the engagements incurred by her in 
the Treaty of Alliance relaxed? Undoubtedly 
to the extent of relieving her from the necessity 
of continuing the war with Great Britain for such 
possessions, as distinguished from the sovereignty 
and independence of the United States. On the 
other hand, the concession does not relieve by one 

" Arthur Lee's "Journal," Lee's Lee, I. 388. For Gerard's later 
view, see Journals of the Continental Congress, XXIII. 518-9. 
M See Doniol, III. 802. 


whit the incongruity of active championship by 
France of the right of Spain, as part of the price 
of bringing that power into the war and keeping 
her there, to seize the possessions of the United 
States. In short, the question of the possibility 
of France's satisfying Spain along the Missis- 
sippi harmoniously with her engagements with 
the United States resolves itself into the ques- 
tion whether the Treaty of Alliance recognized 
the United States as holding territorial posses- 
sions in the Mississippi country, possessions from 
which, as it subsequently developed, Spain de- 
sired to exclude them. 

The fifth article of the Treaty of Alliance reads 
as follows: 

If the United States shall think it fit to attempt the 
reduction of the British power remaining in the north- 
ern parts of America or the islands of Bermudas those 
countries or islands, in the case of success, shall be 
confederated with or dependent upon the said United 

Here, as in article XI of the Articles of Confed- 
eration itself, was a provision looking to the pos- 
sible accession of Canada to the Americans, or 
to its conquest, and to one or the other of the even 
remoter islands of the Bermudas, but entire 
silence with reference to the region of vastly 
greater importance to the United States lying 
to the westward of the Mountains. 17 The implica- 

17 This argument is from the Instructions of Oct. 17, 1780, to Jay, 
Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII. 941-2. It is as- 


tion could not possibly have escaped those who 
negotiated the Treaty of Alliance on the part of 
France, and especially since it had earlier been 
brought under their direct observation again and 
again. Thus in the outline of a treaty accom- 
panying the instructions drawn up by Congress 
for "the American plenipotentiary destined for 
France," of September 17th, 1776, there appears 
a clear distinction between the portion of the con- 
tinent thought to be involved by the Revolution 
and such outlying British dominions as Canada 
and the Floridas. 18 Again, in the project of a 
treaty which Deane drew up for the French gov- 
ernment this distinction gives way to a specific 
guaranty to the United States of the "posses- 
sion of all that part of the continent of North 
America which by the last treaty of peace was 
ceded and confirmed to the crown of Great 
Britain." 19 Somewhat later Deane also ap- 

sumed throughout this document, which was largely the work 
of Madison, that the French guaranty of American possessions 
became operative with the Treaty of Alliance itself, that is, 
upon the outbreak of war between France and England. 

18 See art. IX of the Plan, Journals of the Continental Congress, 
V. 770. 

"Wharton, II. 215-6, and footnote. And of like implication 
are the following items. On the occasion of General Gates' cele- 
bration of the Fourth of July at White Plains in 1778, the follow- 
ing toast was offered: "May our brethren in Canada, Florida, 
and Nova Scotia speedily enjoy the blessings of free states." 
Connecticut Courant, July 14, 1778. The Pennsylvania Packet 
of April 6, 1779, contains a letter from an American gentleman 
in France, dated Dec. 8, 1778, in which the writer, after reporting 


preached the French government with a scheme 
for obtaining money for the United States in 
France on the basis of security furnished by west- 
ern lands. 20 

a rumor that Great Britain had offered American independence 
through the Spanish ambassador, adds the comment: "We can- 
not learn that these offers contain anything agreeable respecting 
Canada, Nova Scotia, or the Fishery." Read in the light of the 
great concern manifested in Congress for the fate of the region 
between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi, such items are very 

"Deane proposed his scheme to Congress in his letter of Dec. 
1, 1776, Wharton, II. 203-5. "The good and wise part" of Eu- 
rope, he wrote, "the lovers of liberty and human happiness, look 
forward to the establishment of American freedom and inde- 
pendence as an event which will secure to them and their descen- 
dants an asylum from the effect and violence of despotic power, 
daily gaining ground in every part of Europe. From those and 
other considerations . . . emigrations from Europe will be pro- 
digious immediately on the establishment of American indepen- 
dency. The consequence of this must be the rise of the lands 
already settled, and a demand for new or uncultivated land; on 
this demand I conceive a certain fund may now be fixed. You 
may smile, and recollect the sale of the bear-skin in the fable, 
but, at the same time, must be sensible that your wants are real, 
and if others can be induced to relieve them, it is indifferent to 
you whether they have a consideration in hand or in prospect." 
Deane, it must be remembered, came from Connecticut. His 
perfected scheme is embodied in his proposals, communicated to 
G6rard, Mar. 18, 1777: "First, There shall be laid out in the most 
fertile part of the country, purchased or to be purchased of the 
natives on the banks of the Mississippi or Ohio, a tract of land 
equal to three hundred miles square, which shall be appropriated 
as a security for the hiring of money to the United States of 
North America. Second, each subscriber or lender of money shall 
have secured to him as many acres of that land as he shall sub- 
scribe livres, no subscription to be received under 1,000 or 1,200 
livres," etc. SMSS., No. 661. 


Certainly France was adequately informed of 
the pretensions of the United States respecting 
the West. Yet not only is there no record of her 
having demurred to these claims, but, on the 
contrary, the evidence clearly proves that both 
Bourbon governments at first recognized them as 
valid, as least so far as the territory between the 
Ohio, the Mississippi, the Alleghenies, and the 
somewhat variable northern boundary of the 
Floridas is concerned. So when, in the course of 
his interview with the American envoys on De- 
cember 12th, 1777, Vergennes raised the point 
that Virginia's charter claims, by extending to 
the South Sea, tended to "trench on Spain's 
claims to California," and the Americans pointed 
to the fact that by the Treaty of 1763 a western 
limit had been set to the Colonies at the Missis- 
sippi and suggested that this line be drawn from 
the source of that river, "this," says Lee in his 
Journal, "was admitted as adjusting the matter 
properly." 208 Again, what could have been more 
explicit than Florida Blanca's assertion in March, 
1778, that the Mississippi comprised "a boun- 
dary sufficiently definite and visible" between the 
possessions of Spain and those of the United 
States? 21 Indeed, it was exactly because he 

Lee's Lee, I. 361. 

21 Montmorin to Vergennes, Apr. 10, 1778, Doniol, III. 22. And 
in the same connection note the implication of certain passages 
in Aranda's despatches to Florida Blanca of Feb. 23 and Mar. 
23, 1778. "I incline," he writes in the former, "to the opinion 


recognized this to be the case that the Spanish 
minister feared the United States to the degree 
that he did: the prescriptive rights of the United 
States, sanctioned as they were by France, made 
the situation irremediable. Vergennes, on the 
other hand, it will be recalled, was at great pains 
to allay these fears, but even so, he did not assert 
that the Americans were intruders in the region 
between the Mountains and the Spanish domin- 

that the great question with the [American] commissioners will 
be as to retaining Canada and Florida, and that the Congress 
will make resistance, as it will not want the English for neighbors, 
but will wish to remain complete and absolute in all that part of 
North America." Sparks MSS., CII. In the latter occurs the 
following passage: "Still less will he [the king of Spain] dis- 
please the colonies after the signs of protection that he has 
given them, and being a new power which must come to be a 
formidable one and upon which he is to border alone and which 
would never pardon such a turning of the back," etc. The im- 
portant point is that Aranda here recognizes the United States 
to be at that date a power bordering on Spanish dominions. 
Note also the following words from his despatch of Aug. 4 of 
the same year: "It seems to me that the intention of this Court 
cannot be to maintain that the new United States should charge 
themselves with the rest of the Northern Provinces, but that they 
should be limited to the thirteen confederated from the begin- 
ning." Thus the court of London may "avoid the disgrace of 
losing the whole of the continent of America." The contrast, it 
will be observed, is between the thirteen confederated Colonies 
and the northern ones. Another interesting document in the same 
connection is Franklin's letter of Dec. 12, 1775, to Don Gabriel 
of Bourbon: "... I think I see a powerful dominion growing up 
here, whose interest it will be to form a close and firm alliance 
with Spain (their territories bordering)." Complete Works of 
Benjamin Franklin, V. 548. Don Gabriel, therefore, was informed 
of America's pretensions in the West from the first. 


ions On the contrary, he made the very distinc- 
tion that was common with Americans, between 
the parts of America in revolt and such outlying 
regions as the Floridas and Canada; he cited "the 
vast expanse" of the existing dominion of the 
United States to prove that it would be ages be- 
fore America would care for further accessions of 
territory; and he contrasted the Americans as 
"peaceable, unambitious neighbors" with the 
"avaricious, implacable" British. 22 But the 
Spanish minister, unconvinced by the reasoning 
of the French secretary, at last came to the deci- 
sion that it would be necessary for Spain to take 
the law into her own hands and expel the Ameri- 
cans from the banks of the Mississippi. He did 
not suggest, however, that the matter was one to 
be treated of with France, though the conquest of 
the Floridas, involving American interests but 
not American rights, was such a subject. And 
eventually the Treaty of Aranjuez was signed. 
Spain's apprehension of the United States had 
by this time reached its climax, as had also the 
anxiety of France to bring Spain into the war. 
Yet on the question of the western limits of the 
United States the treaty maintained complete 

M Doniol, II. 785; III. 51, 561. The argument, however, from 
the distinction made between colonies in revolt, on the one hand, 
and Canada and the Floridas, on the other, should not, in the 
case of Vergennes, be pressed too rigorously, since it does not 
clearly appear whether he regarded Canada as including Quebec 
as organized under the Act of 1774, though his recognition of 
Virginia's charter claims would tend to indicate that he did not. 



The views finally adopted by the Spanish gov- 
ernment with reference to the Mississippi ques- 
tion apparently originated on this side of the 
Atlantic in the fertile brain of an Havana mer- 
chant, one Juan de Miralles, who having been 
forced by mishap to put into Charleston early 
in 1778 in the course of a voyage to Cadiz, later 
received a commission from the captain-general 
of Cuba to act as a sort of observer of affairs in 
the United States for His Catholic Majesty. 1 

1 According to his letter of Feb. 13, 1778, to Galvez, Miralles 
had set out from Havana for Cadiz the previous Dec. 31, but had 
been forced by a leakage of the vessel bearing him to put into 
Charleston, Jan. 9. He had remained there since the latter date 
because of an interdict upon the departure of vessels from the 
harbor, due to the presence outside of a British blockading squad- 
ron, which had shown itself very unscrupulous in seizing neutral 
vessels. He intended to sojourn at Charleston till a favorable 
opportunity offered itself to continue his journey or to return 
to Havana. Meantime, he asked letters to Washington, Laurens, 
et al. His purpose in visiting Cadiz was to secure the mon- 
opoly of carrying negroes to Havana, the right of the existing 
monopolists being about to lapse. He would like to institute such 
a commerce from the Southern American states. Would Galvez 
urge his claims upon the king? As we have already seen, Florida 
Blanca had announced in September, 1778, that Spain then had, 


"A typical Spaniard, infinitely zealous and well- 
informed in the interests of his court in this part 
of the world," Miralles came to Philadelphia with 
the idea that France should conquer Canada and 
that Spain should conquer "all that the English 
had acquired by the Treaty of 1763 in Florida 
and on the Mississippi"; but especially did he 
"give himself over to all the speculations which 
the possession of the Floridas and the exclusive 
navigation of the Mississippi could suggest." 
And the basis of these speculations was the con- 
viction that sooner or later, the Americans were 
bound to become the enemies of Spain; that, in- 
deed, this contingency was no remote one. 2 

Miralles' first care was to put himself in close 
relations with M. Gerard, who seems to have 
regarded his views, so far as they touched the 
interests of Spain, with entire complacency. 
Thus in his despatch of July 25, 1778, to Ver- 
gennes, heralding Miralles' appearance at Phila- 
delphia, Gerard wrote: 

I have persuaded him to report to his court that Con- 
gress would never consent from mere generosity to 
renounce the navigation of the Mississippi [which is] 

or would presently have an agent in America to observe develop- 
ments. I infer that the actual business of despatching such an 
agent was left to Galvez, who, seeing the opportunity offered by 
Miralles' accidental presence at Charleston, commissioned him 
to act in this capacity. The letter just paraphrased is to be 
found in the Sparks MSS., XCVII. Miralles did not appear in 
Philadelphia till July, 1T78. 
* Gerard to Vergennes, July 25, 1778, Doniol, III. 293-4. 


necessary to serve as an outlet for the immense settle- 
ments which the Americans are proposing to make along 
the Ohio and other rivers tributary to it ; that the expe- 
dition commenced by Major Willing in those parts was 
about to be followed up ; that it had been suggested that 
Pensacola be offered Spain, while what the English hold 
on the left bank of the Mississippi be retained; that it 
appeared to me important that His Catholic Majesty 
should calculate upon this difficulty in advance ; that the 
only means of obviating it, as it seemed to me, was not 
to put it in the way of the Americans to formulate de- 
mands in regard to the matter, that is to say, to dis- 
pense with their aid, indeed to forestall it, by seizing 
these lands with Spanish forces alone. 

"Don Juan," Gerard concluded, "feels that my 
observations are correct and has promised me to 
render an account of them." 3 

& Loc. cit. See also Miralles to Galvez, Aug. 20, 1778, Sparks 
MSS. Here Miralles speaks of a plan communicated to him by 
Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia for an expedition 
against St. Augustine, the ultimate objective of which was to 
be the conquest of the provinces of Mobile, Mississippi, Pensa- 
cola, and Florida. The original author of the plan, which called 
for the assemblage of three thousand men at Savannah, was the 
Marquis de Br^tigny, with whom and the president of Congress 
Miralles discussed it at length. The latter treated the matter 
rather lightly: it was good enough to kill time with over a bottle 
of wine. None the less, Br6tigny laid the plan before Congress 
in French and reported that this body had sent it to the inter- 
preter. Miralles expresses the opinion that the conquest will be 
easy, but fears that American cooperation will give rise to 
pretexts "injurious to the dominions of the king. I say," he con- 
tinues, "the same as to the conquest of Pensacola, Mobile, Mis- 
sissippi, and the other countries on the Mississippi river," etc., 
"because if the neighbors assist in the conquest they will surely 
claim the use and free passage of this river, ... so as to pass 


But presently we find Gerard going far beyond 
this tone of disinterested criticism and becoming 
the avowed champion of the cause represented by 
the Spanish agent. For this there were several 
reasons: To begin with, diplomacy, unlike the 
law, recognizes no such category of questions as 
res adjudicatae. Again, as I have already 
pointed out, it was the most natural thing in the 
world for a Frenchman to take the position that 
England's title to the lands along the Mississippi 
was founded on conquest alone and was, there- 
fore, open to conquest by an enemy. Yet again, 
Gerard was well aware of the anxiety of his gov- 
ernment to meet the views of Spain at all possible 

out to the Gulf of Mexico. It cannot but be apparent to the 
least informed person . . . how prejudicial this would be." Br6- 
tigny's plan was reported to Congress adversely by the Board of 
War, Oct. 31, 1778, Journals of the Continental Congress, XII. 
1083; but was again brought before that body by a letter from 
Miralles Nov. 24, 1779, ib. f XV. 1301. This time the plan had the 
backing of the diplomatic La Luzerne and was also aided by the 
growing seriousness of the military situation in the South. On 
Dec. 16, accordingly, it was resolved "that General Lincoln . . . 
be ... empowered ... to ... concert with the Governor of 
Havana, or any other person or persons properly authorized by 
His Catholic Majesty, such plan as shall in his opinion be best 
calculated to insure the reduction of the enemy's force in the 
state of Georgia . . . and for the conquest of East Florida." 
North Carolina voted "nay," and Georgia was not present. 76., 
1388-9. More specifically, Congress' expectations were, that Spain 
would furnish six vessels of the line and five thousand troops, 
that Georgia would first be recovered, and that then the joint 
expedition would turn to Florida. The plan fell through when 
Lincoln was forced to surrender at Charleston. 


points and, in fact, was under specific instructions 
to forward these views in several respects. Fi- 
nally, Gerard had little understanding of, or 
sympathy for the American point of view as rep- 
resented in Congress. 4 

This body, changing in membership and com- 
plexion of opinion from day to day, voicing a 
variety of local interests and personal animosities, 
deferring strangely, now to the views of popular 
committees, now to the pretensions of thir- 
teen petty sovereignties, fell quite without the cut 
and dried categories of the French representa- 
tive's experience as a diplomat and bureaucrat. 
Unfortunately, it was this fact precisely that M. 
Gerard most fatally failed to recognize. Fol- 
lowing his controversy with Congress over the 
subject of a separate peace, it is apparent that 
Gerard pictured that body to himself as a species 
of landtag or diet of the sort that France in the 
case of her client states on the Continent sought 
to dominate by division. In the case of the 

4 A characterization of Gerard by Stormont occurs in the 
latter's despatch of Aug. 21, 1776: "M. Gerard is the most likely 
person for M. de Vergennes to employ [in dealing with Deane], 
and he could employ no man who would undertake such a com- 
mission with more alacrity. I have known him long. He has 
parts, address, and no small share of artifice. He was much 
trusted at Vienna by M. de Chatelt, and he has the same spirit 
of intrigue, the same desperate policy, the same jealousy and 
implacable hatred of Great Britain." SMSS., No. 1350. It was 
partly this talent for intrigue that involved Gerard in difficulties 
with Congress. 


Swedish Diet, for instance, it had been the 
"Hats" and the "Caps," the one the party of 
France," the other of Russia. So in the case of 
Congress it was "the Patriots," "the Friends of 
the Alliance," "the Friends of Peace," on the one 
hand, "the Swelled Heads" ("Tetes Exaltees"), 
"the Anti-Gallicans," "the Anglicans" on the 
other. That the latter and its leaders, Richard 
Henry Lee and Samuel Adams, contemplated 
treason to the alliance at the first opportunity, 
Gerard had little doubt ; and as the same faction 
stood for the American claims in the West, it 
followed inevitably that those claims must be 
spurious. 5 

It is to be noted, however, that Gerard was 
shrewd enough to begin his proselyting in Spain's 
behalf with the representative of a state that had 
only a very moderate interest in the land ques- 
tion, Gouverneur Morris of New York. To 
Morris he urged the necessity of Congress' re- 
assuring Spain and suggested, to that end, that 

5 Aside from an interesting but quite inadequate article by John 
Fiske in the Atlantic Monthly, LXIV. 220 ffg., the subject of 
Parties in the Continental Congress has received little attention 
in proportion to its importance. Some of the documents in the 
SMSS. are interesting in this connection; see Nos. 487, 729, 733, 
737, 1616. There is also much scattered material to be gleaned 
from the press of the date; see, for instance, the Pennsylvania 
Packet of May 20, 1778, and Rivington's Gazette (Loyalist, N. Y. 
City), of Mar. 8, 1780. Still more valuable are the despatches of 
G6rard and La Luzerne; see the Index to Doniol, under "Congres," 
"G6rard," "La Luzerne." 


St. Augustine, Pensacola, and Mobile, and the 
exclusive navigation of the Mississippi be guaran- 
teed her. The American replied, in characteris- 
tic vein, that he appreciated the necessity of 
setting limits to the Confederacy, and particu- 
larly to the South, since he was thoroughly per- 
suaded that the virtues required by a republic 
were to be bred only in a hardy climate. Indeed, 
he himself thought that to hand over the naviga- 
tion of the Mississippi to Spain from the mouth 
of the Ohio would be accordant with the best 
interests of the United States, inasmuch as it 
was the only measure calculated to keep the 
growing population between the Ohio, the St. 
Lawrence, and the Mississippi dependent on the 
republic. At the same time he was aware that 
many members of Congress regarded this as a 
privilege which appertained to the United States 
of right and that, furthermore, there were power- 
ful private interests enlisted in maintaining this 
right. 6 

Forearmed with this not unfriendly warning, 
Gerard began a couple of months later approach- 
ing groups of delegates with vague insinuations 
bearing more or less remotely on the matter he 
had at heart. On December 22d he gave a din- 
ner to which Miralles and several Congressmen 
were invited, in honor of Jay, who had just been 

e G6rard to Vergennes, Oct. 20, 1778, Doniol, II. 72-3. As to the 
private interests involved, see Wharton, III. 135. 


elected president of Congress. Sitting "la pipe 
a la louche" the participants spent several hours 
canvassing the subject of what sort of principles 
ought to govern the new republic in relation to 
other powers. Gerard admonished his hearers 
that all Europe suspected the American people 
of having inherited the aggressive and turbulent 
spirit of their ancestors and deduced the neces- 
sity they were under of proving the contrary. 
Fortunately they had an opportunity to evidence 
their love of justice by drawing "a permanent 
line of separation between the Spanish posses- 
sions and their own." A formal proposition to 
Spain, even though it were rejected, could but 
do them credit in the eyes of the world, by dem- 
onstrating their willingness to renounce both for 
themselves and posterity all ambition for con- 
quest. His hearers acknowledged the wisdom of 
his remarks but protested that the American 
Constitution was incompatible with the spirit of 
conquest, notwithstanding which they felt con- 
fident that Congress "would furnish all the 
additional assurances that lay within its power." 
Gerard ought at this point, one would think, 
have brought forward the question of the navi- 
gation of the Mississippi. In point of fact, he 
kept discreetly silent on that topic. "It is," he 
wrote Vergennes, "a matter to be handled with 
secrecy and dexterity," for there existed in Con- 


gress, he had found, "the materials of a powerful 
party" opposed to Spain's interests. 7 

However, Gerard did not long continue in this 
balancing posture. As usual, Congress was at 
this date in great financial straits. The idea ac- 
cordingly suggested itself to the French and 
Spanish representatives that that body might be 
induced to sell Spain its "recent conquests in 
Louisiana and the Illinois country"; and in a 
series of conferences held at Miralles* and Ge- 
rard's dwellings, this suggestion was broached to 
Jay and certain of his associates. How far nego- 
tiations actually proceeded on this basis cannot, 

T Circourt, Histoire de I' Alliance, etc., III. 260-3. An earlier con- 
ference of similar purport is more briefly reported in Gerard's 
despatch of Dec. 12, Doniol, IV. 64-5. These conferences were 
followed by one with Washington, which is recounted in the 
despatch of Dec. 30: J'ai observe que 1'Angleterre auroit 
vraisemblablement la plus grande r6pugnance a c6der aux Etats- 
Unis des territoires qui ne font point partie int6grante des 
Colonies . . . que les Etats, n'ayant a cet egard qu'un simple droit 
de conquete, ne doivent naturellement pas s'attendre que leurs 
allies faissent la guerre un jour de plus pour leur procurer un 
aggrandissement Stranger aux principes fondamentaux du sys- 
teme de notre union, acquisition d6sagr6ee et pleine d'inconviens 
pour PEspagne. On a paru sentir vivement la force de cette 
reflexion, et j'espere que cela contribuera a determiner les offres 
a faire a cette Couronne. M. Washington m'ayant demande quelle 
compensation le roy demanderoit si ses forces concourraient a la 
conqufcte du Canada, ma r^ponse a 6t6 que je 1'ignorois, mais que 
j'6tois convaincu qu'elle seroit analogue a lettre et a Pesprit du 
traite d'alliance." Apparently, while G6rard, in speaking of ter- 
ritory that "formed no integral part of the colonies" had the 
Mississippi country in mind, Washington thought he was referring 
to Canada. Ib., 38. 


unfortunately, be determined, as the published 
Journals of Congress are silent on the subject, but 
according to a letter of Miralles, written late 
in January, Congress had appointed a committee 
of one member from each state to consider his 
proposals, and he had been informed by a member 
that favorable action was all but imminent. In- 
deed, according to a report of later date, Miralles 
had named the enormous sum of two hundred 
million livres as the amount that Spain would be 
willing to pay for the territory she desired, an 
offer which, had it been made definite, should have 
been quite irresistible. 8 

Be that as it may, Gerard now began taking 
the frankest possible tone in discussing the con- 
flict of interests between Spain and the United 
States in the West. "I stated," says he, report- 
ing a conference that occurred late in January 
with a committee of Congress, 

that the United States had no sort of right to the 
possessions of the English monarch which would not 
appertain equally to the king of Spain whenever he 
should become engaged in war with England ; that their 
right was restricted to the territory which they pos- 
sessed as English colonies ; that in admitting the demand 
of isolated and scattered establishments, they contra- 
dicted the principles of justice and equity which had 
directed the Revolution . . . ; that ... the king 
8 For the matter of this paragraph, see Miralles to Galvez, Dec. 
28, 1778, and Jan. 22 and 29, 1779; also Rendon to Galvez, May 
10, 1780, Sparks MSS., XCVII. 


would never prolong the war a single day to procure for 
them the possessions they coveted; that such benefits 
were absolutely foreign to the principles of the alliance 
and especially to the policy of the United States toward 
Spain, as well as the interests of that power ; that good 
feeling would never be established with Spain so long 
as she had so great reason for distrust. 9 

In a word, Gerard conveyed the idea that, if his 
government had ever accepted American preten- 
sions in the West, it did so no longer. In this, 
however, he was altogether, and probably delib- 
erately, misleading. For it is quite evident that 
the Foreign Office followed in the wake of its 
plenipotentiary's opinions in this matter rather 
than vice versa; and at this date, the Office was 
still unaware that these had changed. 

Early in February Vergennes' despatch of the 
previous October arrived at Philadelphia, an- 
nouncing that France had accepted Spain's offer 
of mediation and urging that Congress proceed 
at once to formulate the conditions upon which 
it would consent to peace. The document gives 
every evidence that the secretary still regarded 
the United States as the rightful proprietors of 
the region west of the Alleghenies. Thus speak- 
ing of the disposition to be made in the treaty of 
peace of Canada, Nova Scotia, the Floridas, and 
the Newfoundland fisheries, it says: 

9 Gerard to Vergennes, Jan. 28, 1779, Circourt, op. dt., III. 


It would be of advantage, Monsieur, that Congress' 
ultimatum should include, first, the renunciation of 
Canada and Nova Scotia, or at least of Canada and the 
fisheries along the coasts of Newfoundland; secondly, 
the abandonment in favor of Spain of the Floridas, or 
of such parts of these colonies as shall meet the favor- 
able acceptance of Spain. 

In other words, the distinction between the 
British colonies in revolt and such outlying re- 
gions as the Floridas and Canada still underlies 
the secretary's thinking about the territorial 
question; and, as we have already seen, the quite 
inevitable deduction from this distinction is rec- 
ognition of the extension of the United States, 
at least between the Ohio river and the some- 
what indefinite northern boundary of West 
Florida, to the Mississippi. 

And of like implication are the secretary's 
words on the question of the navigation of the 
Mississippi : 

I do not know [he wrote] and I am unable to previse 
the intentions of the court of Madrid on this subject. 
But I judge from the situation of places that the 
Americans will insist upon the liberty of navigating the 
Mississippi for the settlements which they propose to 
establish along the Ohio, and I assure you that it would 
appear astonishing to me should anyone attempt to 
jefuse them this demand. However, there may be some 
considerations of a local nature that I am ignorant of 
on the other side of the question, considerations merit- 
ing attention. You are in position to obtain the requi- 
site information whether from the Americans themselves 


or from M. Miralles ; and if they appear to be of such 
a character as to justify the refusal of Spain, you ought 
to prepare the Americans for it with prudence and 
management. But in the contrary case, you ought to 
prevail upon the Spanish agent, not only to avoid charg- 
ing his court with prepossessions on the subject, but 
also to lay the matter before it in such fashion that it 
will find no difficulty in according the Americans the 
consent which they will not fail to demand of it. 10 

Two weeks later, Gerard addressed Congress 
as a body on the subject of peace terms. Speak- 
ing of the necessity of meeting "the convenience 
of Spain," he was challenged to explain what he 

I answered [he writes] that His Catholic Majesty is 
too great and generous to desire an acquisition of terri- 
tory . . . , that it was the security of his frontier and 
the prevention of trouble with his neighbors that gave 
him his only concern . . . , that the possession of Pen- 
sacola and the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi 
could alone fulfil this object. 11 

At this date Congress was still hopeful of a 
recognition from His Catholic Majesty, a hope 
which Miralles did not scruple to foster by dis- 
seminating misleading rumors. 12 In general 

"Doniol, III. 569-70. 

u Gerard to Vergennes, Feb. 17, 1779, Doniol, IV. 110-4. 

"See ft., III. 294. The earliest word to reach America of the 
alliance represented Spain as party to it, SMSS., 821. The Con- 
tinental Journal and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of June 18, 
1778, contained the following item from a London correspondent: 
"We can now assure the public that on Saturday a rescript was 
delivered from the court of Spain recognizing the independence of 


terms, therefore, Congress was quite willing to 
declare its intention of meeting Spain's desires. 
Nevertheless, it was speedily made clear to Ge- 
rard by delegates from Virginia and North Caro- 
lina, that the navigation of the Mississippi was 
not a matter admitting of unlimited concession. 
The West, said they, was filled up with adventur- 
ers, fugitives from justice, bandits ; this was not by 
the desire of the states, but it was a fact ; the way 
to civilize these people was to tie them up with in- 
dustry and property, for which access to the sea 
by way of the Mississippi was essential to them ; 
that Spain should continue to hold the key to 
that river, and even to strengthen her control by 
the acquisition of the Floridas was all right; but 
at least she must accord the West a port of entry 
at its mouth and, preferably, a Mediterranean 
port as well; such a policy would be a boon to 
Spain's own commerce. 13 Gerard, though ob- 
viously impressed by these representations, has- 
tened to disavow any special knowledge of 
Spain's commercial system; and meantime the 
matter of concession to Spain was becoming in- 
volved with other issues. With the general ques- 
tion of peace terms before it, Congress proceeded 
to develop principles meant to obtain for the 
United States as much as possible in all direc- 
tions, the principle, for example, that the United 
States was entitled to independence plus all that 

18 G6rard to Vergennes, Feb. 18, ib., IV. 114-5. 


had incontestably belonged to the British prov- 
inces at the moment of the outbreak of the Revo- 
lution; that the very notion of independence 
implied the possession of Nova Scotia; and so 
on. 14 Noting the trend of opinion, the plenipo- 
tentiary brought forward the suggestion that the 
fixation of boundaries be deferred till the negotia- 
tion of peace, a suggestion designed to give the 
mediating power a chance to make its voice heard. 
The idea, he regretfully admits, found no 
partisans. 15 

In fact, Gerard was soon to discover that his 
troubles had only begun. From his first recep- 
tion of the news of mediation he had urged that 
Congress should hasten its work. In the middle 
of March, however, that body began a four 
months' wrangle over the question whether the 
United States should refuse any peace by which 
Great Britain did not accord them the privilege 
they had enjoyed as her provinces of participat- 
ing in the Newfoundland fisheries. The interest 
back of this proposition was a local one, but vital 
to the locality concerned. 16 It was also ably 

14 The father of this species of dialectic was Samuel Adams, ib., 
83, footnote 1, and 93, footnote 1. 

15 76., 92. 

16 For some contemporary newspaper discussion of the propriety 
of making the right to fish off the Grand Banks a sine qua non of 
peace and of delaying Congress' decision in the matter of peace 
terms for the benefit of New England, see the Pennsylvania 
Evening Post of early July, 1779, and the Pennsylvania Gazette 
of June 23. Of especial interest in this connection is a manu- 


represented and soon had a powerful party at its 
behest. And not only was the French govern- 
ment's program of facilitating peace put in jeo- 
pardy by the proposal to make the fisheries a sine 
qua non condition, but the privilege sought could 
by no stretch of the terms of the Treaty of Al- 
liance be brought within its purview. Gerard's 
blood was aroused as it had not been before, and 
this time at least, it is impossible not to accord 
him a measure of sympathy. "I told them," he 
records in his report of May 14th, "that I was 
convinced that England would grant them the 
fisheries by the same title as that by which they 
had previously held them, to wit, as subjects of 
the British crown, but that they had no need of 
the aid of France for that arrangement." 17 At 
this date he thought he had a considerable ma- 
script in the office of the secretary of state of North Carolina, 
unsigned and undated; but in the hand of Thomas Burke, a North 
Carolina member of the Continental Congress at this period. 
The document, for a transcript of which I am endebted to Mr. 
Waldo T. Leland of Washington, comprises an account of the 
proceedings in Congress from March to July, 1779, relative to 
peace terms. Burke expresses sympathy for New England's 
interest in the fisheries but condemns the New England leaders 
for the lengths to which they pushed their claims. "Their 
claims," he writes, "extended so far as to interfere with the 
rights which must by the Law of Nations belong to Britain after 
the war . . . and such rights as Britain is always jealous of in 
so high a degree that she would make war at any time to prevent 
encroachments on them." It is to be noted that Burke does not 
regard the territorial question as having caused delay. 
"Doniol, IV. 138. 


jority of the delegates with him but a month 
later he had to confess that "the Party of Peace" 
was in a serious predicament, due largely, he 
charges, to the hostile influence of Thomas Jef- 
ferson. 18 The crisis came the middle of July, 
when Jay and "two other well-intentioned dele- 
gates," "torn and battered by the fray" and fore- 
seeing civil war if New England was longer 
opposed, advised the French representative that 
the game was up. In the interview that followed 
Gerard by turns pleaded with, threatened, and 
cajoled his interlocutors: France was a great 
power and would remain one even if America de- 
serted the alliance, but that America, taking 
counsel of her sense of shame, would never do. 
The prospect, however dismaying, would never 
force the king "to submit his neck to the yoke they 
would fain impose upon him." 

I added that some people appeared to entertain the 
wish of breaking down the relations of France with 
Spain, but that I believed myself able to predict that, 
if the Americans had the audacity to reduce His Ma- 
jesty to the necessity of choosing between the two, his 
decision would not be in favor of the United States ; and 
I saw with astonishment and grief that the guardians 
of America's welfare saw in public affairs only their 
own factional and local interests, as if the whole world 
would bow down before their capricious and changeable 
resolutions, confined within the circle of their own ad- 
vantage, . . . that certainly the king would not con- 

18 76 V 135 ffg., 153-5, 165-7, 174-5, etc. 


sent to consume the rest of his realm through a 
succession of years in order to procure a small increase 
of fortune for a few New England shipowners. 19 

These vigorous representations met with a de- 
gree of success. For in the instructions finally 
voted by Congress on August 14th the claim to a 
share in the Newfoundland fisheries was, so far 
as the anticipated treaty of peace was concerned, 
left to the chances of negotiation and its recogni- 
tion made a sine qua non condition only of the 
commercial treaty with England which it was 
expected would follow the conclusion of hostili- 
ties. 20 But in doing this much, Gerard had done 
his utmost. The making a commercial treaty with 
England dependent upon American participa- 
tion in the fisheries was to the prejudice of the 
tobacco states, whose further interests in the 
West, accordingly, Congress was less disposed 
than ever to sacrifice. By the same instructions 
of August 14th, the western boundary of the 
United States northward of 31 north latitude 
was asserted to be the Mississippi, and the recog- 
nition by Great Britain of this boundary was 
made an ultimatum. 21 A month later further 

"Gerard to Vergennes, July 14, ib., 177-81; see also, same to 
same, July 18, ib., 219-23, where the plenipotentiary vigorously 
attacks the selfishness of individual states. 

" Journals of the Continental Congress, XIV. 960-1. However, 
a treaty of commerce could have been entered into by the 
"unanimous consent" of the states, without Great Britains' having 
met the sine qua non. 

*/&., 958-9. 


resolutions were adopted proffering the assent 
of the United States to His Catholic Majesty's 
conquest of the Floridas, on condition that he 
accede to the treaties between the United States 
and France, and "provided always, that the 
United States shall enjoy the free navigation of 
the river Mississippi into and from the sea." 
Also, the American negotiator was "particularly 
to endeavor to obtain" for Americans, their ves- 
sels and merchandise, a free port or ports south 
of the thirty-first parallel. 22 

On October 4th, John Adams, a reliable cham- 
pion of New England's interests, was appointed 
the representative of the United States for the 
purpose of negotiating peace and John Jay, 
whose attitude on the boundary question was at 
this date somewhat ambiguous, American repre- 
sentative at Madrid. 23 Meantime, Gerard, 
broken in health and awaiting the arrival of his 

22 Journals, XV. 1084, under date of Sept. 17. On Oct. 13, 
Witherspoon of New Jersey, seconded by Governeur Morris of 
New York, moved that "the claim of a free navigation of the 
Mississippi" be receded from if the obtaining of it "be found 
an insuperable bar to the proposed treaties of amity and com- 
merce between these states and His Catholic Majesty," ib., 1168. 
The motion was voted down. Its ultimate triumph is discussed 

Ib., 1142-3. The result was arrived at, after a long contest, 
by a combination of Jay's and Adams' friends. See ib., 1107 and 
1113. It should be noted that Adams' known bias supplied the 
deficiency of his instructions with reference to the fisheries, while 
Jay's instructions on the Mississippi question made his personal 
opinion a matter of indifference. 


successor with impatience, had become thor- 
oughly disgusted with Congress. "The only way 
to save America from her madness and despite 
herself," he wrote Vergennes, "would be for the 
king to take advantage of the delay and conclude 
a peace along the general lines of the alliance." 24 
The appointment of Jay afforded him a meas- 
ure of consolation at the moment of his with- 
drawal from America, but even that was far from 
concealing his practical defeat. 25 

31 Despatch of July 31, Doniol, IV. 201. 

38 See t6 v 211. For the exchange of compliments between Ge>ard 
and Congress that attended the former's leave-taking, see Jour- 
nals, XV. 1072-4, 1085. 



Compared with that of his predecessor, the 
mission of Louis XVFs second plenipotentiary 
to his republican allies was a pronounced success. 
In great part no doubt the circumstances of the 
war, as we shall see presently, made the Chevalier 
de La Luzerne's triumph inevitable, but this fact 
should not obscure to us that gentleman's own 
personal deserts in the least. Affable of address, 
good-natured, sensible, direct, bent on discovering 
and reporting the facts rather than a confirma- 
tion of his own views about things, experienced 
in meeting men on their own level, turning a dis- 
cerning eye upon vulnerable points of character, 
and with a wholesome endowment of the spirit of 
laissez aller, La Luzerne acquired a personal as- 
cendancy over Congress in matters touching the 
common cause of France and the United States 
that had never fallen to the lot of the acrid and 
pedantic Gerard, even in the honeymoon days of 
the alliance. His methods, it must be admitted, 
were not always unexceptionable, for if we are 
to believe his own accounts, he sought on occasion 



to "accelerate public opinion" as expressed in 
Congress by well-placed douceurs, whereas Ge- 
rard seems to have done nothing more reprehen- 
sible than to subsidize pamphleteers and writers 
for the papers. On the whole, however, the Con- 
gresses that the later envoy had to deal with were 
of higher average character than some that had 
come earlier; and his greatest triumph, the vot- 
ing of the Peace Instructions of June 15th, 1781, 
was brought about with the assent and assistance 
of men who would have scored bribes. 1 

1 For a characterization by the Englishman Wraxall, see Whar- 
ton, I. 84 (p. 425). "The Count de La Luzerne," wrote Gouver- 
neur Morris, "is an indolent, pleasant companion, a man of 
honor and obstinate as you please, but he has somewhat of the 
creed of General Gates, that the world does a great part of its 
own business without the aid of those who are at the base of 
affairs," ib. For testimony to La Luzerne's services to the mili- 
tary establishment, see La Fayette to Vergennes, May 20, July 23, 
Oct. 4, 1780, and Feb. 1, 1781, SMSS., Nos. 1625, 1626, 1627, and 
1633. La Fayette notes that La Luzerne pays no attention to the 
quarrels of private individuals and that he is held in the greatest 
esteem both in and out of Congress. Another item to the same 
effect is to be found in Rivington's Royal Gazette of May 3, 1780. 
In a letter of the previous month from a gentleman in Maryland 
to a correspondent in St. Eustatia, complaint is made that France 
has "gained an absolute ascendancy over the councils and gov- 
ernment of the country." "M. G6rard . . . laid the foundation of 
French influence. M. La Luzerne . . . has steadily pursued the 
same steps." He advised Congress to pass the act of Mar. 18, 
1780, redeeming the Continental currency at the ratio of 40 to 1. 
He "commands the majority of that body as much as the English 
ministry do that of the British Parliament. He has told them that 
if they mean to govern this continent, they must keep the people 
poor. . . . This, says he, is our maxim in France. . . . Poor men 


At the outset, however, La Luzerne was forced 
to treat the situation before him more or less from 
the point of view of others, since his first instruc- 
tions, bearing the dates July 18th and September 
25th, 1779, were prepared by the French Foreign 
Office exclusively in the light of the information 
that had come from Gerard. We are not sur- 
prised, then, to find these despatches setting forth 
the following ideas: That there existed in Con- 
gress a party headed by the Lees and Adamses 
which, if it had not "already sold out to Eng- 
land," at any rate sought to establish principles 
diametrically opposed to the alliance; that this 
party stood for a separate negotiation with Eng- 
land to be followed by an alliance with that 
power, for the prolongation of the war for ob- 
jectives outside the scope of the alliance, and 
for opposition to the interests of His Catholic 
Majesty; that since Spain was now a party to the 
war and thus a defender, at least indirectly, of 
American independence, it was the duty of Con- 
gress to satisfy that power in the matter of a 
fixed western boundary for the United States, 
the navigation of the Mississippi, and the con- 
make the most obedient subjects and the best soldiers." For 
instances of La Luzerne's intervention with Congress in behalf of 
greater military efficiency, see Wharton, III. 683-5 and 803-5. 
Though he did not mingle in the quarrels of individuals and fac- 
tions, he did combat openly Arthur Lee's candidacy for the 
secretaryship of Foreign Affairs, in 1781, and with success, secur- 
ing the selection of Robert R. Livingston. See Doniol, IV. 597. 


quest of the Floridas; that the United States had 
no title to the lands adjoining the Mississippi, 
but that that region was still English and there- 
fore subject to conquest by Spain, and that Spain 
ought to conquer it with a view to procuring 
"clear, exact, precise, and unchangeable" limits 
to the pretensions of the United States and espe- 
cially "to forestalling the hopes of conquest to 
which the provinces of the South might give 
themselves over"; that the Americans probably 
never had any right to navigate the Mississippi, 
since "the boundaries of the British provinces 
did not extend to that river" and it would be 
absurd for them to claim the right on the score 
of England's title; that the Floridas did not ap- 
pertain to the United States under any title, but 
that Spain had the greatest interest in reposses- 
sing herself of this colony, which was so necessary 
to insure her commerce on the Gulf of Mexico 
from outside disturbance; that the guaranty 
pledged by France to the United States by article 
XI of the Treaty of Alliance was definitive only 
as to their sovereignty and independence and 
would extend to their possessions only from the 
close of the war; that the French government 
was confirmed in its espousal of Spain's interests 
in North America by the consideration that it 
was itself without interest in seeing that conti- 
nent "enjoy the role of a power or in seeing her 
in a position to give disquiet to her neighbors"; 


that, in other words, "the only purpose of our 
views with reference to the United States is that 
they shall be independent and peaceable." 2 

La Luzerne received the despatch of July 18th 
on January 20th, 1780, seven months after it was 
penned, and a few days later communicated its 
purport to Congress. At one point, however, he 
deviated conspicuously, if not from the letter, at 
least the spirit of his instructions. For while 
Vergennes' obvious intention had been that the 
whole influence of France should be brought to 
bear upon Congress in the interest of Spain, 
La Luzerne had been long enough on the ground 
to have discovered that this would never do. For 
the tone of advocating Spain's views he accord- 
ingly substituted that of impartially reporting 
them, with the result of implying that his own 
government's concern was limited to having 
brought to an end an unfortunate difference of 
opinion between its allies. But his discretion 
availed him little. For one thing, the very fact 
that Spain was now in the war for her own ob- 
jects prejudiced his efforts ; for it was well argued 
that the principal reason for concession to Spain 

The most material portions of these documents are given in 
Doniol, IV. 224-5 and 357-61. They are given complete in 
Circourt, op. tit., III. 266-84. Cf. Journals of the Continental 
Congress, XXIII. 518-9, where is quoted an argument of 
Gerard's, dated May 22, 1779, on the guaranty. This, says the en- 
voy, "ne commercera qu'a P6poque a laquelle les possessions des 
Etats-Unis auront 6t constat6es par la cessation de la guerre." 


had been all along to make her a party to the war, 
whether as an ally of the United States or not, 
and that this reason was now at an end. More- 
over, as it chanced, La Luzerne was also under 
the necessity at this juncture of disclosing to 
Congress the final terms on which Spain had of- 
fered mediation to Great Britain and Vergennes' 
objections thereto. Such candor, on the part of 
our ally, as well his opposition to the principle 
of the status quo, was of course most reassuring, 
but the effects of the communication upon Con- 
gress' attitude toward His Catholic Majesty was 
naturally bad. When therefore, La Luzerne re- 
ported, it was learned that the Spanish monarch 
claimed the right to conquer the lands to the east 
of the Mississippi, he found himself confronted 
with "reasons already very powerful" to which 
were now added "unfavorable dispositions," and 
his endeavors to rebut the American claims, he 
frankly owned, "made little impression." This 
was early in February. A month later the Phila- 
delphia Gazette published an account by Miralles 
of recent Spanish successes along the Mississippi. 
The effect of this disclosure was, La Luzerne 
wrote his government, great public excitement 
and a universal disposition to assert the American 
title to this territory. Thus it was pointed out 
that several states had sold and were still selling 
lands in the regions involved; that adventurers 
from the states were planting the banners of their 


provinces there; that George Rogers Clark had, 
in behalf of his state Virginia, been waging war 
against the British posts in the Northwest for 
nearly two years. In his perplexity La Luzerne 
turned to Miralles, who astonished him by dis- 
closing the fact for the first time that he possessed 
neither any direct authority from Madrid nor yet 
any certain knowledge of its intentions. Never- 
theless, the arrival at this moment of the despatch 
of September 25th forced the French representa- 
tive to renew his efforts in Spain's behalf, which 
he did with the usual measure both of discretion 
and effect. Even delegates whose friendship to 
the alliance could not be questioned expressed 
regret that Spain should thus seek to sow seeds of 
discord between herself and the United States. 
Some months later La Luzerne reported the fol- 
lowing words of a Virginia delegate, with refer- 
ence both to the land question and the question of 
the navigation of the Mississippi: "We should 
be endeavoring to deceive Spain if, in treating 
with her, we obligated ourselves to make a renun- 
ciation that the nature of things renders impos- 
sible." In the same report, La Luzerne also 
noted that the delegates from the Northern 
states, though without direct interest in the mat- 
ter, generally sustained the pretensions of the 
South. 3 

3 For this paragraph, see Doniol, IV. 331-7 paraphrasing re- 
ports from La Luzerne between the dates Jan. 25 and Aug. 25, 


La Luzerne's candid, if somewhat discursive, 
reports furnished his government for the first 
time with anything like a true picture of Ameri- 

1780. Some further items of the same purport are given in 
P. C. Phillips, The West in the Diplomacy of the American 
Revolution, pp. 150-84, passim. On Aug. 22, the Virginia dele- 
gates laid before Congress instructions from the legislature of 
their state reasserting Virginia's charter claims and the Ameri- 
can right to navigate the Mississippi, Journals, XVII. 755; 
Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 71, I. fol. 391. This 
action on the part of Virginia led Congress, on Oct. 4, to in- 
struct Jay to adhere to his former instructions on the navigation 
question, and on Oct. 17, to accept the before cited letter of 
Oct. 17, prepared by Madison to urge the American claims in the 
West at length, Journals, XVIII. 900-2 and 935-47. In the latter 
document attention is paid to the Spanish claim of a right by 
conquest to some of the western country. It is answered: "1. 
That these possessions are few in number and confined to small 
spots. 2. That a right founded on conquest . . . cannot compre- 
hend the circumjacent territory. 3. That if a right to the said 
territory depended on the conquests of the British posts within, 
the United States have already a more extensive claim to it than 
Spain can acquire, having by an important success of their arms 
obtained possession of all the most important posts and settle- 
ments on the Illinois and Wabash, rescued the inhabitants from 
British domination, and established civil government in its proper 
form over them. They have, moreover, established a post on a 
strong and commanding situation near the mouth of the Ohio; 
whereas Spain has a claim by conquest to no post above the 
northern bounds of West Florida except that of the Natchez, nor 
are there any other British posts below the mouth of the Ohio 
for their arms to be employed against. 4. That whatever extent 
ought to be ascribed to the right of conquest, it must be admitted 
to have limitations which in the present case exclude the pre- 
tensions of His Catholic Majesty. If the occupation by the king 
of Great Britain of posts within the limits of the United States, 
as denned by charters derived from the said king when consti- 
tutionally authorized to grant them, makes them lawful objects 


can opinion on the Mississippi question. Fur- 
thermore, they arrived at Versailles at a time 
calculated to impart to their message considerable 

Throughout the greater part of 1780 and into 
the year following, His Catholic Majesty, practi- 
cally withdrawn from the war, was engaged in 
peace negotiations with an English emissary. 
That Spain intended actually to abandon her al- 
liance with France, Vergennes professed not to 
believe, but he very justifiably feared that she 
again sought to impose the status quo on the 
United States. 4 This, however, he wrote Mont- 

of conquest to any power than the United States, it follows that 
every other part of the United States that now is, or may here- 
after fall into the hands of the enemy, is equally an object of 
conquest. Not only New York, Long Island, and the other islands 
in its vicinity, but almost the entire states of South Carolina and 
Georgia might by the interposition of a foreign power at war 
with their enemy, be forever severed from the American con- 
federacy and subjected to a foreign yoke." Madison was greatly 
assisted in this argument, as indeed were the American advocates 
generally, by the fact that at this period the today familiar rule of 
"effective occupation" had no place in International Law. See also 
the New York Gazette of July 15, 1780, where the writer calls for 
the early "conquest of the continent." Evidently, popular expecta- 
tions in this matter still ran high. 

4 Vergennes to Montmorin, Mar. 31, Apr. 21, June 12, June 30, 
July 6, and Sept. 28, Doniol, IV. 450-1, 453, 46T-84. It is not im- 
possible that Vergennes took too charitable a view of the Spanish 
government's proceedings at this time. According to a recent 
account of Cumberland's mission, based on English sources, Florida 
Blanca offered, in return for Gibraltar, to withdraw from the war 
and "to pay besides in ships, treasure, and territory." On the 
British side, according to the same account, "four Cabinet coun- 


morin, would be to sacrifice the honor of France, 
the substantial purpose of the war, and in the long 
run Spain's own interest. The English and Amer- 
icans, left in juxtaposition, would reunite their 
forces. Incited by the English, the Americans 
would penetrate to the heart of Mexico, whose 
people they would encourage "to aspire to a 
sweeter government." Then indeed would Spain 
have cause to fear the example of American inde- 
pendence. 5 These arguments made as little im- 
pression upon the Spanish monarch and his 
minister as they had two years before. As late 
as the end of October, with New York City, the 
Carolinas, and Georgia now under British con- 
trol, Florida Blanca openly defended the status 
quo for the United States. 6 

cils met on the business" and finally formulated the English terms, 
which however were still more exorbitant. M. A. M. Marks, 
England and America, 1763-1788 (London, 1907, 2 vols.), II. 1196-7. 

5 Doniol, IV. 450-1, 453, and 480. 

76. 409. Vergennes comments on Florida Blanca's attitude in 
his despatch to Montmorin of Jan. 22, 1781, thus: "M. le Cte. de 
Floride Blanche croit, M., que nous serions fort heureux si nous 
parvenions a obtenir le statu quo, pour l'Ame>ique sep'le. Ce 
ministre n'a done pas jett6 les yeux sur la carte de cette partie du 
monde pour voir ce que ce seroit qu'un pareil statu quo dans le 
moment actuel; ou bien il de"sespere entierement de notre cause, ou 
enfin il nous croit assez lagers pour abandonner les Ame"ricains 
sans la n6cessit la plus urgente. La v6rit6 est, M., que si le Roi 
stipuloit r uti possidetis a regard des Etats-Unis, il les mettoit 
entierement a la merci des Anglois; il porteroit d'ailleurs atteinte 
a sa reputation; il autoriseroit les Amricains a la defection, vers 
laquelle la cour de Londres dirige essentiellement toute sa poli- 
tique." 76. 510. The statu quo, in short, would represent the 


But of even more importance than the selfish- 
ness of Spain's course in determining Vergennes' 
attitude at this time on the Mississippi question 
was the appearance of John Adams at Paris early 
in February, 1780. In the long run, this visit of 
Adams to the French capital resulted somewhat 
equivocally for American interests, since it fur- 
nished Vergennes a reasonable pretext to demand 
the Congressional Instructions of June 15th, 
1781. Immediately, however, the impression of 
obstinacy and independence given by Adams, 
taken in connection with Spain's contemporary 
proceedings, led the French government to ratify 
the policy of Icdssez faire that had already been 
put into effect by La Luzerne with reference to 
the matters at issue between France's allies. 

Adams had hardly arrived in Paris than he 
startled Vergennes with the suggestion that he 
considered it his right and duty, though a general 
peace was no longer in prospect, to communicate 
to the British government his powers to con- 
clude with it both a treaty of peace and a treaty 
of commerce. 7 Vergennes, who connected 
Adams with that faction in Congress which, ac- 
cording to Gerard, had been bent on a separate 
peace with England, at once had visions of an 

entire defeat of the purpose of the alliance. At this very date this 
was just what, Vergennes feared, impended. See following 
7 Adams to Vergennes, Feb. 12, 1780, Wharton, III. 492-3. 


outcome to France's efforts in behalf of America 
that would have been ironical in the extreme. 7 * 

To be solicitous about a treaty of commerce before 
peace is established [he wrote Adams] is like being busy 
about furnishing a house before the foundation is laid. 
In the situation in which America stands at present with 
regard to England, to announce to that power that they 
have forgotten her system of tyranny, her cruelties, 
and her past perfidy, is discovering too great a degree 
of weakness, or at least too much good nature, and 
inviting her to believe that the Americans have an 
irresistible predilection for her. . . . To propose a 
treaty of commerce, which must be founded on confi- 
dence and a union equivalent to an alliance, at a time 
when the war is raging in all its fury . . . , what is it 
but to give credit to the opinion which all Europe enter- 
tains, . . . that the United States incline toward a 
defection, and that they will be faithful to their en- 
gagements with France only till such time as Great 
Britain shall furnish them a pretext for breaking 
them? 8 

But Adams, quite obsessed with the idea that 
the time was ripe for an appeal to English public 
opinion in behalf of peace and the recognition of 
American independence, refused to be convinced 
by the French secretary's logic, though he even- 
tually deferred to the latter's urgent request to 
postpone action on his opinion till further in- 

Ta See especially Vergennes to La Luzerne, June 3, Doniol, IV. 

"Observations on Mr. J. Adams' Letter of July 17, 1780," 
Wharton, IV. 3-6. 


structions from Congress. 9 But this was only 
after repeated argument on the subject, and 
meantime other irritating issues had arisen be- 
tween the two men. 

Thus in June the question came up of the 
justice of the "40 to 1" Act of March 18th, to 
foreign holders of Continental currency. Ap- 
proached on the subject, Adams prepared what 
was an able defense of Congress' action, 10 but to 
it added in conversation with agents of the For- 
eign Office, some rather unnecessary frills : 

The course Congress had taken was wise, indeed very 
wise, just, very just; and those who complained of it 
were either English emissaries or spies . . . [More- 
over] the French had less reason for complaint than any 
body else . . . since were it not for America, to whom 
France should understand she was under the greatest 
obligation, England would be too powerful for the 
House of Bourbon, and Russia, Denmark, Sweden, 

9 Adams to Vergennes, July 26, ib., 7-11. Congress disapproved 
of Adams' efforts to communicate his powers to the British gov- 
ernment. "Congress consider your correspondence with the Count 
de Vergennes on the subject of communicating your plenipoten- 
tiary powers to the ministry of Great Britain as flowing from 
your zeal and assiduity in the service of your country; but I am 
directed to inform you that the opinion given you by that min- 
ister relative to the time and circumstances proper for communi- 
cating your powers and entering upon the execution of them is 
well founded. Congress have no expectations from the influence 
which the people of England may have on the British coun- 
sels. . . ." Huntington, President of Congress, to Adams, Jan. 
10, 1781, Wharton, IV. 229. 

10 Adams to Vergennes, June 22, ib., III. 809-16. 


Portugal, and Holland would never be confederated 
against that power. 11 

A month later Adams wrote Vergennes, apro- 
pos the despatch of Ternay and Rochambeau's 
expedition, to urge that a French fleet be main- 
tained somewhere along the American coast over 
winter, emphasizing especially the value to be 
derived from thus keeping the British line of 
supplies and communications constantly men- 
aced. Certainly this was a sensible idea enough. 
Unfortunately, in pressing it upon the French 
government not only was Adams invading the 
province of Franklin, but he brought to his self- 
assumed task the most egregious lack of tact. 
"Let the whole system of France be considered," 
he wrote, quoting from a current English circular, 

from the beginning down to the late retreat from Sa- 
vannah, and I think it is impossible to put any other 

"Doniol, IV. 416 fn. This was on June 17, but more than 
a month earlier Adams had written to Genet to much the same 
effect: "To suppose that France is sick of the part she has taken 
is to suppose her sick of that conduct which has procured her 
more respect and consideration in Europe than any step she ever 
took. It is to suppose her sick of that system which enabled her 
to negotiate the peace between Russia and the Ottoman Porte, 
as well as the Peace of Teschen; that system which has enabled 
her to unite in sentiment and affection all the maritime powers 
even the United Provinces in her favor and against England. It 
is to suppose her sick of that system which has broken off from 
her rival and natural enemy the most solid part of her strength; 
a strength that had become so terrible to France and would have 
been so fatal to her." Adams to Genet, May 9, 1780, Wharton, 
III. 667. 


construction upon it but this, viz., that it has always 
been the deliberate intention and object of France, for 
purposes of her own, to encourge the continuation of 
the war in America in hopes of exhausting the strength 
and resources of this country [England] and of de- 
pressing the rising power of America. 

True, he himself disavowed harboring any such 
belief, but he strongly implied that, in view of the 
desultory fashion in which France had thus far 
waged war, it was by no means an unreasonable 
belief, and also, that it was one which was likely 
in time to gain a strong foothold in the United 
States. 12 

Vergennes' response is dated a week later. It 
announced that there was "every reason to believe 
that they [Ternay and Rochambeau] will take 
their station during next winter in North Amer- 
ica," and continued: "You will perceive, sir, by 
this detail, that the king is far from abandoning 
the cause of America and that His Majesty with- 
out having been solicited by Congress, has taken 
effectual measures to support the cause of Amer- 
ica." 13 Adams' spontaneous reaction to this intel- 
ligence was most enthusiastic. "I assure Your 
Excellency," he wrote the day following, "that 
scarcely any news I ever heard gave me more 
satisfaction." 14 But this was due to the fact that 
he had not given proper attention to the state- 

"76., 484-55. 
13 76., 870-1. 
"76., 872. 


ment in Vergennes' letter that His Majesty's 
action had not been solicited by Congress. In 
his letter of July 27th to the secretary he proves at 
length that Congress had asked for just such aid 
as was at last being furnished, as early as 1776, 
and had repeated the request several times since. 15 
This was the straw that broke the camel's back. 
Up to this time Vergennes seems to have kept 
his temper with the New Englander fairly well, 
but on July 29th he wrote him that henceforth 
His Majesty's government would confine its 
dealing in matters affecting the two allies to Dr. 
Franklin. 16 A few days afterward Adams with- 
drew to Holland. 17 

But some time before this upshot of the matter, 
Vergennes had come to the conclusion that the 
standing of the alliance with the American 
Congress, whose chosen representative Adams 
evidently was, was too delicate to be further 
jeopardized by France's appearing in the thank- 
less role of champion for Spanish interests where 
these conflicted with interests of the United 
States. In his despatch of June 3rd, 1780, to La 
Luzerne the French secretary reiterated his per- 
sonal belief that Spain had the right to seize the 
lands to the east of the Mississippi if she could, 

15 Ib., IV. 12-4. 
ia /6 v 16-7. 

17 Here, too, his conduct was quite displeasing to Vergennes, 
loc. cit., 562-3; V. 48. 


that whatever might be the terms of the charters 
of the Southern states, the English were still the 
proprietors of these lands, and that there was, 
therefore, nothing to oblige Spain to hand over to 
the Americans such of them as she should con- 
quer. But, he continued, that was not a matter 
for France to decide, wherefore La Luzerne 
should utter no opinion on the subject but should 
leave the whole question with Miralles. The 
French envoy should limit himself to advising 
influential members of Congress "not to use the 
language of right to the court of Madrid, but 
rather to appeal to its magnanimity." Finally, 
he added that he had confidential word to the 
effect that the Spanish government was strongly 
disposed to surrender to the Americans the east 
bank of the Mississippi above the Floridas and 
to accord them "some sort of navigation of the 
river." 18 And his despatch of August 7th was 
along sugstantially the same lines. The pre- 
tensions of Spain, said the minister, "are very 
delicate to treat of ; our intervention has not been 
asked for, and silence will be without disadvan- 
tage." La Luzerne should therefore merely avail 
himself of such occasions as chanced to offer "to 
bring Congress to have confidence in the Catholic 

18 Doniol, IV. 427-8. In a despatch to Montmorin, dated June 
12, Vergennes reiterates his interpretation of the guaranty clauses 
of the Treaty of Alliance: "La garantie des domaines des Etats- 
Unis est eVentuelle, son tendue ne sera dtermin6 que par la 
future pacification," ib., 459-60, footnote. 


king and to decide the question of the lands 
along the Mississippi without prejudice." 19 

Notwithstanding these despatches, in October, 
1780, while La Luzerne was absent at Hartford 
attending a conference between the American and 
the French commanders on the military situa- 
tion, his youthful secretary Marbois, at the in- 
stance of Rendon, the successor of Miralles, who 
was now dead, presented Congress an extended 
memoir showing, "with the greatest energy," "the 
absence of any foundation" for the American pre- 
tensions in the West and "giving them to under- 
stand that they need not expect the king of Spain 
to assent to them." 20 The following February 
15th Congress did, in fact, decide upon a measure 
of concession to Spain, when it instructed Jay to 
recede from the demand for the right to navigate 
the Mississippi below 31 north latitude and a 
free port there, "provided such cession shall be 
unalterably insisted upon by Spain." 21 But the 

"76., 429. 

20 Rendon to Galvez, Oct. 20, 1780, Sparks MSS., XCVII; Doniol, 
IV. 593-4. Marbois was assisted in the preparation of this 
letter by Jenifer of Maryland, one of the leaders of the "land- 
less" state faction, P. C. Phillips, op. cit., 182-3. Jenifer, then 
president of the Maryland senate, had stated his views at length 
to G6rard, early in July, 1779, Doniol, IV. 168-70. 

* Journals, XIX. 152-4; Wharton, IV. 267-9. This resolution 
was in immediate consequence of instructions received by the 
delegates of Virginia, authorizing them to assent to the terms 
indicated in the interest of a "speedy conclusion of an alliance 
with Spain," Journals, loc. cit. 151. The motive underlying this 
resolution was distrust of the negotiations then going on in Spain. 


decision was due not to Marbois' representation 
of Spain's rights, which indeed was answered on 
the spot, but to the state of the war, and the ques- 
tion of the lands along the river was not affected 
by it. Four days later but four months after 
Marbois' intervention Vergennes again wrote 
La Luzerne touching the Mississippi question. 
The envoy was urged to follow his former instruc- 
tions and to leave it to Congress to discuss its 
pretensions directly with Madrid through its own 
plenipotentiary. It seems not unlikely that the 
despatch was elicited by intelligence of young 
Marbois' officiousness. 22 

In brief, then, while the claim of the United 
States before 1783 to a western boundary along 
the Mississippi was by no means an invulnerable 
one, its validity seems originally to have been 
taken for granted by Vergennes, as was also that 
of the even less well-grounded claim to a right to 

It was feared that Spain might be detached from the war and 
that this might lead to peace on the basis of the uti possidetis. 
See Writings of James Madison, I. lOlff.; IX. 86-9. On August 
10, a second resolution was offered to empower Jay "to make 
such further cessions of the right of these United States to the 
navigation of the river Mississippi as he may think proper," etc. 
It was voted down unanimously, Journals, XX. 853-4. The feel- 
ing in Congress at this latter date was anything but cordial toward 
Spain on account of the action of the Spanish commander in 
allowing the British garrison at Pensacola, on the surrender of 
that post to the Spanish forces, to retire to New York. See the 
order adopted this same date, loc. cit., 854. 
"Doniol, IV. 593-4. 


navigate the lower course of the river to and 
from the sea. Also, both the language and his- 
tory of article XII of the Treaty of Alliance 
rendered plausible the American contention that, 
from the moment the treaty became operative, 
His Most Christian Majesty became guarantor 
of the territorial integrity of the United States. 
In his instructions to La Luzerne, however, of 
July and September, 1779, Vergennes not only 
rejected this interpretation of article XII, but 
assumed outright championship of the theory that 
the left bank of the Mississippi, northward of 
the Spanish boundary, was still English and that, 
therefore, Spain, being then at war with England, 
had the right to conquer it. In bringing about 
this change of attitude the material factors were, 
first, Vergennes' desire to remove the principal 
obstacle to Spain's hearty participation in the 
war, namely, fear of the Americans, and secondly, 
the misinformation that had come from Gerard 
as to the intentions of the so-called Anti-Gallican 
party in Congress and the extent to which the 
Mississippi boundary was desired by all factions ; 
but there is no item of evidence showing an ulter- 
ior idea in the mind of the secretary that France 
herself would wish some day to recover Louisi- 
ana. When presently he came to understand the 
real trend of American opinion in this matter 
and the probable risk involved in attempting to 
traverse it, Vergennes returned to his original 


position, that it was for Spain and the United 
States to settle by themselves the questions in issue 
between them. This was conspicuously the posi- 
tion of the French government and its represen- 
tative at Philadelphia when Congress voted the 
Instructions of June 15th, 1781, a fact to be re- 
membered in adjudging Congress' willingness at 
that time to entrust American interests so com- 
pletely to the keeping of France. Whether, once 
vested with this power, France still adhered to 
her attitude of aloofness, which after all rested 
upon considerations of policy and not of right, is 
reserved for later consideration. 



On September 27th, 1780, Vergennes ad- 
dressed the king the following letter: 

Sire, your Majesty learned yesterday the details which 
the Count de Maurepas had to communicate with re- 
gard to the financial situation. They are truly alarming 
and seem to leave no other recourse than peace and a 
very speedy peace. Spain feels the same press of 
necessity that France does and her inclination is very 
evident. Does Your Majesty desire to instruct his 
ambassador at Madrid to encourage and promote this 
inclination? I have not the least fear, Sire, that the 
Count de Montmorin would not acquit himself of such a 
commission, extremely difficult and delicate though it 
would be, with equal prudence and celerity. But once 
the avowal were made to Spain that we have need of 
peace and that we rely upon her to obtain it for us, there 
is no one, Sire, who could answer for the consequences or 
assure Your Majesty that the interest of his reputation 
and his glory would not be compromised. I speak only 
of that, Sire, since all other things are in comparison as 
nothing. I entreat Your Majesty to take the matter 
into consideration and to consult the Count de Maure- 
pas. If the outcome of your deliberations favors an 
effort for peace through Spain, I very humbly beseech 
Your Majesty to transmit me the order in writing. The 
circumstances which constitute the necessity of unhappy 



courses are soon forgotten, while the evil effects which 
ensue become but the more evident with the passage of 
time. 1 

It requires no inordinate effort to perceive in 
this document the record of a critical moment in 
the history of the alliance and of the Revolution 
itself. Fortunately for the cause of American 
independence Vergennes' prompt and astute in- 
tervention with the king saved the day. Early in 
October the secretary forced the retirement of 
the incapable Sartines from the Marine in favor 
of Castries and early in January he effected a 
similar reorganization of the Department of War 
under the talented Segur. 2 Meantime, as these 
changes indicate, the royal assent had been ob- 
tained to a new campaign, though that it would 
probably be the final one of the war Vergennes at 
once recognized, not only because of the condition 
of the royal exchequer but also because of the 
situation on the Continent. With the powers 
announcing in rapid succession their adherence 
to the League of Neutrals and with Holland 
breaking openly with England, the European 
horizon wore a smiling countenance for France at 

1 Doniol, IV 488. 

2 Ib., 488-90. Says M. Doniol of Vergennes' triumph: "Si, ce- 
pendant, les petitesses des hommes trouvent encore a s'agiter 
quand de grandes preoccupations dominent, ce ne sont ces peti- 
tesses qui commandent. II s'agissait du sort de la France en 
Europe; tout se subordonna a ce grand interet, consequemment fut 
remis aux mains de M. de Vergennes," ib., 490. 


the opening of 1781. Diplomatic combinations, 
however, are extremely kaleidoscopic affairs; 
besides which the recent death of the empress, 
by releasing the yet untested proclivities of 
Joseph II from a control that had usually been 
friendly to France, was a special factor of un- 
certainty. 3 Then, early in 1781 came a formal 
offer from Joseph and the czarina of joint media- 
tion between France and her allies, and Great 
Britain. Inasmuch as the offer represented the 
young emperor's initial venture in the field of 
Continental politics, Vergennes at once decided 
that it was to be treated with consideration. 
Moreover, he could but reflect that, if worse came 
to worst, so honorable a way to peace might prove 
very welcome. 4 

An open road to peace at the end, if it were 

See Vergennes to Montmorin, Feb. 14, 1781, ib., 544-5. "II 
seroit souverainement malheureux que cette campagne si se pass&t 
comme la prceclente sans rien produire d'effectif. Tout nous 
invite a song6r a finir cette guerre; les moiens de la soutenir 
s'6puissent tous les jours, et la disposition de PEurope qui jusqu'ici 
nous a t si favorable peut changer d'un moment a 1'autre. Les 
Anglois ont de grands moiens pour tente> 1'ambition de Pempereur 
et pour le satisfaire; 1'offre que ce prince vient de nous faire de 
sa mediation peut nous faire concevoir I'esp6rance qu'il ne se 
rendra pas si aisement a leur seductions quand bien meme nous 
n'aurions pas d'auitres motifs de compt6r sur sa perseverance dans 
1'alliance mais il n'est pas sans exemple que la vertu la plus ferine 
soit 6branle>. Pour pare> a tous les inconvniens impossibles a 
preVoir, nous ne devons nous occup^r qu'a finir cette guerre; nous 
n'y parviendrons pas sans frape> un grand coup," ib. 

* Vergennes to Montmorin, Jan. 22, 1781, ib., 524-8. 


humanly possible, of a successful campaign 
such, in brief, was Vergennes' program for 1781. 
One question remained, that of the military ob- 
jective of the coming campaign, and on this 
there were three contending views. A party at 
court, composed of the adherents of Choiseul and 
Chatelet sought to discredit Vergennes' policy by 
clamoring for a war of aggrandizement, to be 
waged especially in the West Indies. 5 Spain, on 
the other hand, at last disillusioned of the idea 
of getting anything valuable except by fighting 
for it, was now demanding that she be assisted to 
conquer Gibraltar and Jamaica. 6 Lastly, from 
America came the reiterated suggestion that, 
since American independence was the main objec- 
tive of the war, North America was its natural 
and most advantageous theatre. 

The despatch of Rochambeau and Ternay to 
America early in 1780 has already been noted. 
For this determination on the part of the French 
government to add military assistance to naval 
and financial and for its acceptance of the for- 
mula of "a constant naval superiority in Ameri- 
can waters," which Ternay's squadron was 

*La*t Journal* of Horace Walpole, II. 438-9. See also, for 
later efforts on the part of this same faction to discredit Ver- 
.gennes' policy, Doniol, V. 186-7 and footnotes, and Revue d'His- 
toire diplomatique, VII. 550-1. 

* France's refusal to cooperate with Spain in an attack upon 
Jamaica had been one of Spain's grievances in 1780, Doniol, IV. 


designed to realize, the United States were prin- 
cipally indebted to La Fayette, who had spent all 
the first half of the year 1779 in France pleading 
America's cause to Maurepas and Vergennes. 7 
Unfortunately, two-fifths of the army of ten 
thousand that had been intended for Rocham- 
beau's command was blockaded at Brest by a 
British squadron before it got away, while the 
naval portion of the expedition was rendered use- 
less at Newport in the same manner shortly after 
its arrival. And the total result at the end of the 
first year of the expedition was that it had dis- 
appointed all the expectations it had aroused, 
had, in truth, created the impression on American 
minds of a promise made and not fulfilled. 8 

But a much more important consideration with 
those who at the end of 1780 besought France to 
lend the United States more extensive and direct 
aid was the state of the war in America at this 
period. Despite the alliance, American indepen- 
dence had never been so near collapse. The 
British army now held New York, the Carolinas, 
and Georgia, while the British fleet ravaged the 
coast. Congress was bankrupt and forced con- 
stantly to resort to the most wretched expedients 
to obtain money or to dispense with its employ- 

7 Charlemagne Tower, The Marquis de La Fayette in the Ameri- 
can Revolution (Philadelphia, 1901, 2 vols.), II. ch. XVIII; Doniol, 
IV. ch. V. 

8 Tower, op cit. } II. 125, 132, 157. 


ment. The Continental Army, without pay, 
food, or clothing and enlisted for short terms, was 
ever on the verge of dissolution. And the politi- 
cal situation was no better. With public spirit at 
the lowest ebb, the war had become throughout a 
great part of the country the desperate venture of 
a minority, sometimes a small minority. The 
Articles of Confederation were still in abeyance, 
the states were indifferent to their duties, the 
authority of Congress was flouted daily. To this 
situation the treason of Arnold was the natural 
climax. 9 

The outstanding features of American con- 
ditions in the autumn of 1780 were already before 
Vergennes from the correspondence of La Lu- 
zerne. Indeed, it may be said that almost from 
the moment of the signing of the American trea- 
ties the secretary had undergone a progressive 
disillusionment in the military prowess and poli- 
tical competence of France's republican allies: 
"the inertia of democratic institutions," which 
had furnished him an argument in his efforts to 
reconcile Spain with the idea of American inde- 
pendence, he had soon found to be no mere 

9 On this topic there is a superabundance of material. See Doniol, 
IV. ch. VII; Tower, op. cit. II. chs. XX-XXII; Lecky's American 
Revolution (Woodburn, ed., New York, 1908), ch. Ill; Writings 
of Washington (W. C. Ford, ed., 14 vols.), VIII and IX, passim; 
SMSS., Nos. 733, 737, 747, 1624-32; Wharton, IV. 256 and V. 
151, etc. 


truism. 10 Yet it is an interesting fact that to those 
Frenchmen who had come into personal touch 

M "I avow I have but feeble confidence in the energy of the United 
States," Vergennes to Montmorin, Nov. 27, 1778, Doniol, III. 581. 
A very censorious critic of the Americans was Kalb, whose letters 
to Broglie were probably seen by Vergennes, as they are to be 
found in the archives of the Department of Foreign Affairs. See 
e.g., Doniol, IV. 19 fn. Kalb charges the American character with 
braggadocio, dissipation, corruption, irresolution, lack of patriot- 
ism, Anglomania, SMSS., Nos. 821, 838, 845, 1971, 1987. For a 
partial confirmation of some of these strictures by a more lenient 
critic, see La Fayette to Vergennes, &., No. 1609. See also a 
letter from the "Hon. J. Trevor to Mr. Secretary Fox," dated 
Ratisbon, Apr. 16, 1782. The writer gives an account of a con- 
versation with the son of one of the Elector Palatine's ministers 
at the Diet, who had served as aide-de-camp to Rochambeau, and 
who had come away from America greatly disappointed with 
France's allies. Fifth Report (1876) of the Historical Manu- 
scripts Commission, the Lansdowne Papers, p. 253. Nor were the 
French the only ones who were disappointed. "The generosity of 
our allies," wrote Washington in Aug., 1780, in a letter to the 
President of Congress, "has a claim to our gratitude, but it is 
neither for the honor of America nor for the interest of the corn- 
man cause to leave the work entirely to them," Writings (Ford, 
ed.) VIII. 390. "Had America," began Crisis No. IX, written 
on the occasion of the surrender of Charleston, "pursued her 
advantage with half the spirit she resisted her misfortunes, she 
would before now have been a conquering and a peaceful people; 
but lulled in the lap of soft tranquillity she rested on her hopes, 
and adversity has only convulsed her into action." Vergennes, in 
coming to depreciate the military capacity and public spirit of the 
Americans as a whole and to emphasize the necessity of con- 
trolling Congress, showed a true appreciation of the character of 
the Revolution in its last days. Indeed, even the victory at York- 
town did little to break up the popular inertia that tied the hands 
of Congress. See La Luzerne's elaborate and very informing 
report on the situation at the end of 1781, Revue d'Histoire diplo- 
matique, V. 421-36. 


with the American cause, that cause had never 
appeared in more appealing light than at this 
moment of its greatest prostration. The expla- 
nation, I think, is to be found in the personal 
ascendancy of Washington, whose intrepidity 
and fortitude naturally stood forth all the more 
strikingly as the other mainstays of the Revolu- 
tion fell away. 11 

At almost the very moment that Vergennes 
was intervening to prevent France's withdrawal 
from the war, a conference, consisting of Wash- 
ington, the French commanders, the French en- 
voy, and one or two others, was assembling at 
Hartford, Connecticut, to consider plans for the 
coming campaign in North America. It had al- 
ready been determined that the objective of the 
campaign ought to be the capture of New York 
City. It was now further resolved that, in order 
to render this objective feasible, the French com- 
manders should ask their government to send to 
America enough men to raise Rochambeau's 
force to 15,000, enough money to enable Con- 
gress to maintain a like force, and a sufficient fleet 
to command the American waters. The con- 
ference's decisions were conveyed to France by 
Rochambeau's son on a vessel detailed for the 

"For the change in Kalb's opinion of Washington from un- 
favorable to favorable, cf. his letters of Oct. and Dec., 1777, 
to Broglie, SMSS. Nos. 755 and 761. For some tributes by 
La Fayette, see ib., 1625, 1627, 1632. 


purpose by Ternay, late in October. In the 
middle of February, young Laurens sailed for 
France with a similar commission from Congress. 
He bore with him the friendly injunction of 
Rochambeau "to open his heart as to the state of 
this unhappy land, if it be not promptly and 
powerfully succored." 12 

The response of the French government to 
these demands was certainly not illiberal either 
in proportion to America's deserts or its own 
means. Measured, however, by the demands 
themselves it was meagre enough. The request 
that was met most generously was the financial 
one. Congress had asked for a loan of twenty- 
five millions livres. In return Louis gave out- 
right six millions livres, to be spent in France 
under the direction of Franklin, and later con- 
sented to underwrite a loan of ten millions, to be 
obtained in Holland. The request of the Hart- 
ford Conference for more troops, on the other 
hand, was denied almost in toto, and even the con- 
tingent of Rochambeau's force that had been 
blockaded at Brest was kept back. As to naval 
aid, Vergennes expressed himself as follows: 

u For the above, see Doniol, IV. ch. VII, and Tower, La Fayette, 
II. 159-63, 195-200, 270. La Luzerne suspected that the sending 
of Laurens to France might represent an intention to supersede 
Franklin, Doniol, IV. 390-1 and fn. Laurens' conduct in France, 
characterized as it was by youthful zeal and ignorance of diplo- 
matic forms, was irritating to the French minister, but it seems 
clear that he should be credited with the king's endorsement of the 
Dutch loan, ib., 558-62; Wharton, IV. 317-55; passim, and 685-8. 


The Count de Grasse, who commands our fleet in the 
Antilles, has been ordered to conduct, sometime toward 
the approach of next winter, a part of his fleet to the 
coast of North America, or to detach a portion of it 
to sweep the coast and to cooperate in any undertaking 
which may be projected by the French and American 
generals, or to form a part of it if they are unable to 
cooperate. The number of ships to be sent to the North 
will depend upon the need which the Spanish have of our 
assistance. ... If they have made preparations for 
some great enterprise, we shall have to lend them a 
hand; for if a serious blow is struck at the common 
enemy and it is successful, the advantage will be equally 
great for all the allies. The important point is to 
weaken the enemy, to crush him if possible ; the locality 
is of little importance. 

In short, the rendition of naval aid to the United 
States was subordinated to the project of assist- 
ing Spain in the West Indies, and, it may be 
added, before Gibraltar. 13 

Why was Spain thus preferred to the United 
States? The question is easily answered. If 
France was under obligation to secure American 
independence before she could honorably make 
peace, not less was she under obligation, now that 
Spain was ready once more to take an active part 

18 Doniol, IV. ch. XI; Tower, op. tit., II. ch. XXIV. In the 
interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the government's 
decision not to send more troops to America was receded from 
at the time of Grasse's sailing for the West Indies to the extent of 
sending with him a reinforcement of six hundred and sixty men 
for Rochambeau's force. On Apr. 5, Grasse detached the Sagit- 
taire from his fleet to carry this force to Newport, where it ar- 
rived on June 10th. Tower, pp. 283, 392-3. 


in the war, to obtain something valuable for that 
power too. But more than that, the Spanish 
marine was now in better fighting trim than it 
had been at any earlier period of the war. As be- 
tween an ally able to contribute something to the 
common cause and one needing constant bolster- 
ing, good sense dictated that the real work of the 
campaign should be undertaken in cooperation 
with the former. On the other hand, this does not 
mean that Vergennes' effort to minimize the im- 
portance of the matter of locality is necessarily 
sound. Were England to be really crushed, then, 
of course, the way would lie open for France to 
satisfy both her allies to the completest extent, 
but of this there was, after all, little likelihood. 
Such being the case, however, it was altogether 
probable that, at the close of hostilities, England 
would be more strongly lodged in certain locali- 
ties than in others ; and this fact might very con- 
ceivably work to the detriment of one ally as 
against the other. In point of fact, at the very 
moment he wrote the above quoted words, Ver- 
gennes already had in mind the possibility of 
France's acquiescing in a very substantial cur- 
tailment, from the American point of view cer- 
tainly, of American independence, if an otherwise 
available opportunity for peace should offer 

Vergennes communicated to La Luzerne his 
government's decision with reference to the de- 


mands of Congress and the Hartford Conference 
in a despatch dated March 9th. In the same 
despatch and two later ones, dated respectively 
April 19th and June 30th, he further instructed 
the envoy as to the course of action that France 
expected on the part of Congress touching the 
diplomatic interests of the alliance: 14 Congress 
was to be frankly informed that, in view of threat- 
ened developments on the Continent, peace might 
at any time become of the utmost importance to 
France, and was, therefore, to be urged to accept 
the proposed mediation without delay. By the 
same token, it also behooved Congress to en- 
deavor to win the good will of the mediating 
powers by the moderation of its pretensions, 
"save in the matter of independence, which ad- 
mitted of no modification." 15 The American 
envoy at the mediation, on whose right to enter 
it on a proper footing France would unremit- 
tingly insist, would be John Adams. On account 
of Adams' unfortunate personal qualities which 
would "give rise to a thousand unfortunate 
episodes calculated to exasperate his fellow nego- 
tiators," Congress ought to empower His Ma- 
jesty's ministers to interpose to curb him 

"Doniol, IV. 553-6, 588-91, 601-3; Journals of the Continental 
Congress, XX. 562-9, 669-74, XXI. 986-93. The extracts in Doniol 
are incomplete, but it is possible to supplement them from La 
Luzerne's reports to Congress. 

15 Doniol, IV. 555. 


whenever necessary. 16 Finally, Congress ought 
to be brought, albeit by the most delicate means, 
to realize the possibility that, in view of Eng- 
land's settled opposition to an outright recogni- 
tion of independence and of the existing state of 
the war, the mediating powers might propose a 
truce based on the status quo. 17 That the United 

19 76., 551 fn., 589. 

"76., 552-3, 601-3; Journals, XX. 672. The first hint that 
France might consent to the status quo for the United States is 
contained in Vergennes' despatch of Sept. 25, 1780, to La Lu- 
zerne, written at the moment when, as we have seen, the continu- 
ance of the war was in the balance. "Au surplus, M.," Ver- 
gennes wrote on this occasion, "je presume que le veritable objet 
des inquietudes que Ton vous a marquees c'est le statu quo; il 
seroit effectivement on ne peut pas plus facheux pour l'Ame>ique 
dans 1'etat actiiel des choses, et nous sommes bien determines a ne 
le point stipuler pour les Americains; ce sera a eux a juger, 
lorsqu'il sera question de cet objet, de la perseverance ou des 
sacrifices que les conjonctures exigeront de leur part. Au reste, 
M., je desire que vous vous absteniez de traiter cette matiere deli- 
cate dans ce moment cy . . . ." Doniol, IV. 536 fn. France, then, 
would not stipulate the status quo, but would leave the question 
of its acceptability to Congress. However, Vergennes was very 
fearful that Spain, still in negotiation with Cumberland, would 
stipulate it, as she had in 1778. In his despatch of Nov. 27, 1780, 
he roundly denounced Florida Blanca's policy as grounded in 
passion, prejudice and selfishness, ib. } 506-8. In his despatch of 
Jail. 22, 1781, he declared that if the king of Spain should stipu- 
late the status quo in regard to the United States he would put 
them at the mercy of England and would give the Americans 
good reason to abandon the alliance. "Spain," said he, "will put 
her interests before everything else . . . and she looks upon inde- 
pendence with regret," ib., 510-11. Vergennes' later attitude on 
this question was formulated in a memoir in the hand of Rayneval, 
his secretary, on which is based in part his despatch of Mar. 9. 
This memoir comprises the following points: "1. It is for the 


States were profoundly interested in maintaining 
the integrity of their union was, of course, alto- 
gether indisputable. Indeed, the king himself 
was of the same way of thinking, both because of 
his plighted word and also because of his own 
interests, wherefore he would alter his present 

king of England, author of the war, to make some sacrifices for 
peace. 2. The first of the sacrifices to be made is independence 
for North America. 3. This independence may be assured either 
by a definitive treaty or a truce. 4. The king of England, which- 
ever method is adopted, will be able to treat directly with the 
Americans, through the intervention of the mediating powers. 5. 
The truce will run for 20, 25, or 30 years, etc. The United States 
will be treated as independent in fact, and no restriction shall 
be imposed upon them in the exercise of the rights of sovereignty. 
6. It would be desirable to avoid the status quo if possible; but 
in case that could not be, it will be advantageous to limit it to 
South Carolina and Georgia and to stipulate for the evacuation 
of New York. 7. The proposition of the truce cannot be made by 
the king to Congress, if it should be united with the status quo, 
but if the two propositions are isolated, His Majesty will en- 
gage to procure Congress' sanction of the truce, if he has the 
secret assurance that New York will be accepted [excepted?]. 
8. In case of a truce the king will propose to the Americans, if it 
is necessary to do so, a new convention the object of which will 
be to guarantee the Americans against attack by England after 
the expiration of the truce." In a word, while the king would 
leave the unpleasant business of proposing the status quo to the 
mediating powers, he would accept it and bring Congress to do 
so, if it were confined to South Carolina and Georgia. There was 
a rumor in Boston that the status quo had been accepted for the 
United States, to apply to Georgia, South Carolina, and Maine, 
as early as April, 1780, Continental Journal and Weekly Ad- 
vertiser, April 13, 1780. It may be that the uneasiness to which 
Vergennes refers in his despatch of Sept. 25 (supra) , was caused 
by this rumor. 


resolution only when he saw "the absolute impos- 
sibility of obtaining peace without such a sacri- 
fice." None the less, the sacrifice was one that 
lay "in the order of possibilities" ; and, if it should 
become necessary, it would have to be accepted 
with resignation. "The greater part of the Bel- 
gian provinces had thrown off the Spanish yoke 
originally, but only seven had finally maintained 
their independence" ; and "it frequently happens 
that circumstances give the law to the most 
powerful sovereigns, forcing them to modify 
plans the best conceived." 18 

In short, Vergennes plainly indicated, that if 
an otherwise available peace offered itself, he 
would not resist the status quo for the United 
States indefinitely, though he had declaimed 
against it so bitterly a few months before; and 
further, that while to Congress would be reserved 
the formal decision in the matter, it would be ex- 
pected ultimately to take the same position with 
as good grace as possible, and so save the king's 

The passages above paraphrased, however, 

M Doniol, IV. 601-3. Vergennes continues: "Mais vous aurez 
la j)lus grande attention de ne parler que comme de vous-meme 
et de ne point laisser apercevoir que vous y etes autorise", parce- 
que dans ce dernier cas les Amdricains supposeroient que le Roi a 
d'avance pris le parti de les abandonner et ils croient tout perdu; 
Sa M't6 est re"solue de ne leur proposer aucun sacrifice, elle croit 
devoir laisser ce soin f&cheux aux deux cours mediatrices, si 
jamais il devient necessaire," ib., 603. 


touching the status quo, are from the despatch 
of June 30th and were never brought to Con- 
gress' attention. The conference which La Lu- 
zerne held with a committee of Congress on May 
28th, 19 and which led to the voting of the famous 
Instructions of June 15th, was based upon the 
despatch of March 9th, in which, while the possi- 
bility of the status quo is suggested, the French 
government's attitude toward such a proposition 
is left somewhat vague. Even so, La Luzerne 
evidently thought it more in accord with the 
"delicacy" required by the situation not to bring 
forward this part of the despatch of March 9th 
till after Congress had defined the terms on which 
it would make peace, nor did he do so till June 
18th. 20 At the earlier conference the envoy's dis- 
course was all of mediation, moderation, Mr. 
Adams' deficiencies, and the necessity of confi- 
dence in France. "If," said he, "Congress put 
any confidence in the king's friendship and 
benevolence; if they were persuaded of his firm 
resolution constantly to support the cause of the 
United States," they would order their plenipo- 
tentiary "to manifest a perfect and open confi- 
dence in the French ministers" and "to take no 
steps without the approbation of His Majesty." 
In other words, he invited Congress to surrender 
to France the diplomatic autonomy of the United 

19 Journals of the Continental Congress, XX. 562-9. 

20 Ib., 672. 


States during the approaching peace negotia- 
tions. Far from spurning the invitation, Con- 
gress accepted it without stipulating a condition 
or registering a scruple. 

By the opening paragraph of its Instructions 
of June 15th, 1781, Congress accepted mediation 
at the hands of Their Imperial Majesties; by the 
second, it made independence "by peace or truce" 
and the maintenance of the alliance with France 
sine qua non conditions of a treaty ; by the third 
and fourth, it indicated its confidence in His Most 
Christian Majesty and his ministers in the follow- 
ing terms: 

As to disputed boundaries and other particulars we 
refer you to the instructions formerly given to Mr. 
Adams, dated August 14, 1779, and October 18, 1780, 
from which you will easily perceive the desires and expec- 
tations of Congress ; but we think it unsafe at this dis- 
tance to tie you up by absolute and peremptory 
directions upon any other subject than the two essential 
articles above mentioned. You are therefore at liberty 
to securing the interests of the United States in such 
manner as circumstances may direct and as the state of 
the belligerent and disposition of the mediating powers 
may require. 

For these purposes you are to make the most candid 
and confidential communications upon all subjects to the 
ministers of our generous ally, the king of France; to 
undertake nothing in the negotiations for peace or truce 
without their knowledge and concurrence, and ultimately 
to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion, en- 
deavoring in your whole conduct to make them sensible 
how much we rely on His Majesty's influence for effec- 


tual support in everything that may be necessary to the 
present security or future prosperity of the United 
States of America. 21 

Little wonder that the critics of the instructions 
declared that "never before had one state put 
itself at the mercy of another so completely and 
imprudently" ! 22 Little wonder that La Luzerne 
boasted that "the negotiation was placed actually 
in the hands of the king save on the question of 
independence and the treaties" ! 23 Let us see what 
were the considerations that moved Congress to 
make so extraordinary a concession. 

The instructions were asked for, as we have 
just seen, as a means of curbing John Adams. 
But no sooner were they voted than Adams was 
superseded by a commission consisting of him- 
self, Jay, Franklin, Jefferson, and the elder 
Laurens. 24 Delegates who had opposed La Lu- 

21 76., 651-2. For the complete proceedings, see ib., 605-50. 

22 See La Luzerne to Vergennes, June 23, 1781, Doniol, IV. 
623-4. Other objections were, "that when the people became in- 
formed of the circumstances, the malicious would not fail to say 
that Congress had sold out to France; that the plenipotentiaries 
would fill a sorry role at the conferences; that five important 
persons were being sent abroad to be the passive witnesses of our 
[France's] conduct; that we [the French] had very confused, even 
false, ideas touching the fisheries, the boundaries, the confisca- 
tions, etc."; that the instructions were an affront to the dignity of 
the thirteen states, had been adopted with precipitation, and had 
finally been rendered useless by the action of Congress in sup- 
planting Adams with a commission, ib. 

33 Same to same, June 11, ib., 604. 

* The "ultimately to govern" clause was adopted by Congress 
on June 11, Journals, XX. 626. Immediately thereafter a motion 


zerne's demands in the first instance now renewed 
their attack, insisting that in addition to being 

that had been previously defeated, was reconsidered and carried 
to join two persons to Mr. Adams in negotiating the peace, ib., 
628. Jay was elected on June 13, ib., 638. Franklin, Laurens, and 
Jefferson were added to the commission on June 14, ib., 648. The 
reason for a commission of five is suggested by Witherspoon thus: 
"They added more members to Mr. Adams and those from differ- 
ent parts of the continent. This removed every suspicion or fear 
that the interests of one part would be sacrificed to secure that of 
another," Thomson Papers, 100 (Debate of Aug. 8, 1782). Madi- 
son explains why Franklin and Jay alone were unsatisfactory 
thus: "The former being interested as one of the land companies 
in territorial claims, which had less chance of being made good in 
any other way than by a repossession of the vacant country by the 
British crown; the latter belonging to a state interested in such 
arrangements as would deprive the United States of the naviga- 
tion of the Mississippi and turn the western trade through New 
York; and neither of them being connected with the Southern 
States." Writings of James Madison, I. 299 (Debate of Dec. 30, 
1782). La Luzerne also thought that Franklin might be influ- 
enced through his interest in lands on the left bank of the Ohio 
to oppose Virginia's claim in favor of Great Britain, and so ad- 
vised Vergennes, Report of June 30, 1781, Doniol, IV. 622. The 
events of the negotiations of 1782 show that distrust of either 
Jay or Franklin was entirely misplaced. Neither Laurens nor 
Jefferson participated in the peace negotiations. The former, 
while on the way to fulfil a mission to Holland, in Sept., 1780, was 
captured by the British and later lodged in the Tower of London 
under a commitment for treason. He was still in the Tower when 
he was appointed peace commissioner, but was released Dec. 31, 
1781, on the expectation that Cornwallis would be exchanged for 
him. However, he lingered on in England for another year. His 
conduct was made the subject of much contemporary criticism, 
which his biographer succeeds in answering, at least in part. D. D. 
Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens (N. Y., 1915), 354-419. Jef- 
ferson, who was governor of Virginia at the time, declined a 
place on the commission. 


mischievous the resolutions were also superflu- 
ous. 25 The attack failed, however, even to induce 
a reconsideration of the question; 26 and if the 
testimony of Madison is to be relied upon, the 
instructions were finally adopted in the form 
given above without dissent. 27 

La Luzerne credited what and not without 
justification he regarded as a triumph for him- 
self no less than for France, largely to personal 
factors. Early in May, he tells us, he had 
"opened his purse" to General Sullivan "the hero 
of Newport," a coup which had broken the back- 
bone of the so-called "New England League" and 
secured New Hampshire's vote for the instruc- 
tions from the outset. 28 Also, as it happened, the 
"landless" state party, which was comparatively 
indifferent even when not hostile to American 
pretensions to a boundary at the Mississippi, had 

"See note 22, above. 

"Journals, XX. 650. 

"Thomson Papers, 65 (Debate of July 24, 1782). In meeting 
the attacks of members on the instructions, La Luzerne took the 
position that, "if we [the French] consulted our own interests 
rather than those of our allies, we ought to desire that the Ameri- 
can plenipotentiaries had all the powers that certain people wished 
to reserve to them." Also, he professed to be very reluctant to 
accept for France a trust that did not represent the deliberate 
will of Congress. "L'effet de ce langage, Monseigneur," he con- 
tinues, "a t6 de faire reconsid6rer ces resolutions et de les con- 
firmer, ainsi que je l'espe>ois permament. Le president du Con- 
gres m'a dit qu'elles toient expedites par VAnna." Doniol, IV. 

K Ib., IV. 608 and fn. 


at this moment its two most influential spokes- 
men in Congress, Witherspoon of New Jersey 
and Jenifer of Maryland. On the other hand, 
the Adams and Lee families, champions respec- 
tively of the New England fishing interest and 
the Western land interest, both lacked their usual 
member. Certainly, La Luzerne himself could 
hardly have chosen a Congress more to his liking. 

But while the personal factor may account for 
the votes cast by New Hampshire, Maryland, and 
New Jersey for the Instructions of June 15th it 
does not account for the votes of Pennsylvania, 
Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. How, then, 
we may ask, did the men from these states, men 
like Madison and Jones of Virginia, for instance, 
reconcile such a remarkable abdication of power 
by Congress to a foreign, albeit allied, govern- 
ment with sound public policy? 

La Luzerne' s finesse in the matter of the 
status quo has just been mentioned. Nor was this, 
by any means, an isolated circumstance. To the 
same general category belongs also the fact that 
Congress, being ignorant of the terms on which 
Spain had entered the war, was in no position to 
previse the complicated tangle of obligations in 
which France would find herself if the war turned 
out to be only partially successful. 29 There was, 

*In this connection the following passage from a speech made 
by Arthur Lee in the course of the Congressional debate of Aug. 
8, 1782, in favor of reconsidering the Instructions of June 15, is 


in other words, so far as Congress knew, no com- 
pelling reason why France should not be trusted : 
on the contrary, there were excellent reasons why 
she should be. Months before this her envoy had 
ceased championing Spanish interests where these 
conflicted with American. More recently, aban- 
doning the no longer applicable views of his court 
as to the establishment of a balance of power in 
America, he had given his assent to an invasion 
of Canada and had followed this up by urging 

instructive: "It is not sufficient that the independence of these 
states is secured. But he doubts whether even that is secured 
by the instructions. He is afraid of the accompaniment. That 
we shall be so circumscribed in our boundaries that our indepen- 
dence will be a nugatory independence. France in making a 
treaty will be governed by her own interest and from her long 
and close connection with Spain and prefer it to ours. Is it wise, 
is it proper to give a nation the absolute disposal of our affairs 
that is under the influence of two interests which she is bound to 
consult in preference to that of these states? This unlimited con- 
fidence will render us despicable in the eyes of France and less 
attentive to our rights. We have been informed by a minister of 
France that Spain has large claims on the lands beyond the 
Mountains. Her conduct shews that she means to support her 
claim to that country. She wishes to confine us to the lands lying 
below the heads of the waters falling into the Atlantic. We are 
told that she thinks she has a right to possess herself of all to 
the westward. And shall we submit it to France, her old friend 
and ally, whether her claims shall be confirmed, and we be ex- 
cluded from the possession of that country?" Thomson Papers, 
95-6. Lee was the strongest critic of the Instructions of June 15. 
Yet it will be noted that even he does not suspect that France is 
under any special obligations to Spain in connection with the 
then existing war. Also, it will be noted that he does not charge 
France with having championed Spain's claims to the western 


renewed efforts in the Northwest. 30 Rising above 
all other considerations, however, were these two : 
the state of the war and the source from which 
peace offered itself. The generality of Ameri- 
cans had long felt in June, 1781, that the fate of 
the United States rested almost entirely with 
France, whence it followed that Congress could 
not do better than to vest France outright with 
the trusteeship of American interests. The devel- 
opment at this moment of a prospect of peace 
through the mediation of powers that had never 
yet recognized American independence naturally 
confirmed this logic, and the more so since it was 
not known what degree of pressure these powers 
were prepared to bring in order to end the war. 31 

80 Phillips, The West in the Diplomacy of the American Revolu- 
tion, 190-1 and 194, and notes. It was not La Luzerne's idea that 
the United States should retain the Western country necessarily 
(vd. Doniol, IV. 622), but "he recognized that the possession of 
the Great Lakes would place the Americans in a much better posi- 
tion to negotiate with Great Britain," Phillips, loc. cit. 

31 "In opposing the motion [for reconsideration of the Instruc- 
tions of June 15], many considerations were suggested, and the 
original expediency of submitting the commission for peace to the 
counsels of France descanted upon. The reasons assigned for this 
expediency were, that at that juncture when the measure took 
place the American affairs were in the most deplorable situa- 
tion, the Southern states being overrun and exhausted by the 
enemy . . .; that the old paper currency had failed .... In the 
midst of these distresses, the mediation of the two Imperial 
Courts was announced. The general idea was that the two most 
respectable powers of Europe would not interpose without a ser- 
ious desire of peace and without the energy requisite to effect it. 
The hope of peace was, therefore, mingled with an apprehension 


Upon the Instructions of June 15th there is 
impressed a twofold character. On the one 
hand, they constitute a real tribute to the essen- 
tial magnanimity of the French design in inter- 
vening in the Revolution, to that quality of large- 
ness about Vergennes' project that forbade 
an abandonment of American independence save 
in the face of conditions that meant recognizable 
defeat for France herself. On the other hand, 
this tribute was no merely sentimental one : it was 
conditioned by the deliberate calculation that, in 
view of the actual status of the belligerent parties 
in America and of the auspices under which 
peace was to be negotiated a peace which Amer- 
ica needed no less than France, the United 
States could not act more prudently than to be- 
stow the most ungrudging and unstinted confi- 
dence upon their ally. 32 

It thus becomes pertinent to inquire further, 

that considerable concessions might be exacted from America by 
the mediators as a compensation for the essential one which Great 
Britain was to submit to. Congress, on a trial, found it impossi- 
ble, from the diversity of opinions and interests, to define any 
other claims than those of independence and the alliance. A dis- 
cretionary power, therefore, was to be delegated with regard to all 
other claims." Debate of Dec. 30, 1782, Writings of James Madi- 
son, I. 298-9. Madison, however, rather exaggerates the possi- 
bility of a coercive intention on the part of the mediators. Cf. 
La Luzerne's conference with the committee of Congress, of May 
28, 1781, Journals, XX. 562-9. See also Thomson Papers, p. 65. 
32 "At worst," the apologists of the instructions urged, they 
"could only be considered as a sacrifice of our pride to our in- 
terest," Writings of Madison, I. 300. 


what British recognition of independence aside 
were the expectations that underlay these in- 
structions ? The instructions themselves referred 
the American commissioners back to the instruc- 
tions of August 14th, 1779, but this reference 
leaves us still in the dark as to the degree of con- 
fidence felt by Congress that the objectives so 
defined would be achieved. A much more in- 
forming document is the report of La Luzerne of 
June 13th, 1781, which, on the basis of a careful 
canvass of all varieties of opinion in Congress at 
this date, arrived at the following conclusions: 
'that if the Ohio formed their boundary the Thir- 
teen States would not complain; that, indeed, 
they would believe themselves under obligations 
to the king for all that they obtained more than 
this; that they would not reject the peace if cir- 
cumstances necessitated some greater concessions ; 
that the peace would be less agreeable in pro- 
portion as this line were hewn away from'; 'that 
if circumstances forced them to adopt as boun- 
daries the mountains which divide the rivers that 
flow into the Atlantic from those that flow to the 
west, the peace would be accepted and ratified, 
but would meet with general criticism and would 
cool the ardor of French partisans, and it would 
be difficult to persuade the Americans that their 
interests had not been sacrificed'; that a treaty 
whereby any State were cut off from the Con- 
federation could not be ratified; that they would 


prefer "to continue the war, however difficult it 
might be, to allowing England a single post in 
Georgia or in any other part of the Thirteen 
States"; that if it were necessary to depart from 
the ultimatum of 1779, it was to be desired that 
the concession should be made, "not in favor of 
the English, but that the right of the Indians 
should be reserved to the intervening lands." 53 
The recorded votes on various amendments of- 
fered to the instructions while they were under 
discussion and on the secret instructions which 
it was at first proposed should accompany them 
confirm these conclusions to a striking degree. 34 

But as even- one knows, the Instructions of 
June 15th had no influence on the negotiations 
leading to the Peace of 1783. Directly this was 
due to the initiative of John Jay, whose course 

"DonioJ, IV. 617-31. 

"See especially J&mmaLt. XX. 60&-15. The two articles of secret 
instructions adopted on June 7, ordered the commissioners to 
use their "utmost endeavors to secure the limits fixed exactly 
according to the description in roar [their] former instructions,** 
and if they failed in that, to make peace -without fixing northern 
and western limits,** 16., 60S. The day following, however, Virginia 
having failed to secure an amendment to the instructions asked 
for by the committee that would have prevented any cession south 
of the Ohio, the secret articles were reconsidered and lost, *&., 615, 
La Luseme, however, was somewhat suspicious test some such in- 
structions had been forwarded. *J"ai soupconne qu'il pouvoit y 
avoir des instructions qulls [the plenipotentiaries] auroient ordre 
de nous cacher, mais rien n*a encore oonfirme ce soupcon, et la 
confiance me paroit illimitee," La Luxerne to Vergennes, June IS, 
17S1. Dooiol, IV. 619. 


will be considered in the following chapter as 
furnishing the best pragmatic test of the policy 
of the Foreign Office at that juncture. Back of 
Jay's decision, however, and making it possible 
was the Yorktown campaign, to which, accord- 
ingly, a few words must be devoted. 

It will be recalled that Vergennes had set the 
approach of winter as the time for the Count de 
Grasse's visit to American waters. The admiral 
himself, however, evidently held quite different 
views on this matter, for in a letter to Rocham- 
beau dated March 29th, one week after he had 
left Brest, he announced that he would reach 
Santo Domingo by the end of June, and con- 
tinued thus : 

It will be toward the 15th of July at the earliest that 
I shall be able to reach the coast of North America. 
But it is necessary, in view of the short time I shall have 
to remain there for the season will force me to leave 
in any event that every preparation likely to aid in 
the success of your projects shall be completed, so that 
nothing may delay us an instant in beginning our 
operations. 35 

This letter reached Rochambeau at Providence 
on June 10th. Already this gallant friend of 
America, who had been deeply disappointed by 
the king's rejection of the plan of the Hartford 
Conference, had conceived the idea that the 
Count de Grasse might yet "save the country." 

35 Tower, op. tit., II. 398. 


Thus writing the admiral from Newport on May 
28th he had urged "the gravity of the crisis in 
America, especially the Southern states, at this 
moment," and that, "without the naval superior- 
ity which he [the Count de Grasse] can bring," 
"none of the means within our control can be 
made available." 36 Then in a postscript, added 
three days later, he had further proposed that 
Grasse bring with him from the West Indies a 
corps of five or six thousand men and twelve hun- 
dred thousand livres in specie, since this could be 
obtained at par in the Antilles, while in the 
United States it was at a premium of from 
twenty-five to thirty per cent. 37 Now, on June 
llth, he wrote Grasse a second time, including 
duplicates of the earlier letter and postscript and 
repeating their recommendations with renewed 
urgency. 38 

Grasse's reply, which was dated at Cape Santo 
Domingo on the 28th of July, reached Newport 
on August 12th, and was favorable beyond rea- 
sonable expectation. The admiral announced 
that he would sail for Chesapeake Bay on Au- 


*Ib., 391. 

38 76., 39&-400. Note also these expressions from a letter of June 
16: "General Washington has but a handful of men .... This 
country has been driven to bay, and all its resources are giving out 
at once. The Continental money has been annihilated," ib., 397. 
These letters are published in full in Donial's fifth volume and 
the originals are now in the Library of Congress. 


gust 13th, as, he continued, this is "the point which 
appears to me to have been indicated by you, . . . 
Messrs. Washington, La Luzerne, and Barras, as 
the one from which the advantage which you pro- 
pose may be most certainly attained." He would 
bring with him, he proceeded, three thousand 
men, from twenty-five to twenty-nine war- vessels, 
a quantity of siege artillery, and the sum of 
1,200,000 livres in specie. The one disappointing 
feature of the reply was the time limit it set for 
the projected operations. That he was able to 
come at all to the coast of North America, Grasse 
indicated, was due to the fact that the Spanish 
commander, Admiral de Solano, was not yet 
ready for active operations; but this condition 
would cease with the approach of the winter 
months, for which reason the French fleet and the 
troops it brought with it would have to leave the 
continent by October 15th. 

As the whole expedition [the admiral wrote] has been 
undertaken at your request and without consulting the 
ministers of France or of Spain, although I have felt 
myself authorized to assume certain responsibilities in 
the interest of the common cause, I should not venture 
to change the entire arrangement of their projects by 
transferring so important a body of troops. You will 
perfectly understand, my dear Count, how necessary 
it will be to make the best use of this precious time. 39 

Thus the Yorktown campaign was due to the 
fortunate not to say, fortuitous coincidence of 

"Tower, op. cit., II. 401-4. 


three circumstances: Rochambeau's friendly 
solicitude for the American cause, Grasse's patri- 
otic willingness to stretch a point in his instruc- 
tions for the general good, Solano's unreadiness, 
so characteristically Spanish, for the enterprise for 
which Grasse's expedition had been planned. In 
other words, Cornwallis' surrender owed little or 
nothing to the intention of the French government 
itself. And by the same token, the results of the 
campaign of 1781 were from the point of view of 
the French Foreign Office, somewhat disappoint- 
ing. It had been hoped to hasten peace by striking 
a decisive blow the immediate fruits of which were 
to go to Spain and furnish her sufficient induce- 
ment to quit the war. The decisive blow had been 
struck, true enough, but its direct beneficiary was 
America. The result which was confirmed by 
Grasse's later defeat in the West Indies was 
twofold : With Gibraltar and Jamaica both still 
safely British a new campaign had to be planned 
for the behoof of Spain. With the British forces 
abandoning all their inland conquests in the 
South, the application of the status quo to the 
United States became impossible. 40 

40 See in this connection the secretary of Foreign Affairs' com- 
munication to Congress on November 23, 1781, of the result of a 
recent conference with La Luzerne based on a despatch from 
Vergennes dated September 7. As presented by the envoy, 
this despatch emphasizes France's championship of American in- 
terests, her refusal to accede to the terms of the mediation of 
the imperial courts until they should agree to acknowledge the 


Nor may the reaction of patriotic American 
sentiment to the event at Yorktown be altogether 
ignored. Spontaneous as were popular jubi- 
lation at the triumph of the allied forces and 
gratitude to the French for their assistance, they 
did not blind Americans at all to the strength- 
ened diplomatic position of the United States. 
Within a little over a week from Cornwallis' sur- 
render the Massachusetts legislature passed reso- 
lutions ordering its delegates in Congress to press 
for instructions to the American peace commis- 
sioners to obtain British recognition of the right 
of Americans to share in the Newfoundland 
fisheries. 41 With the introduction of these reso- 
lutions into Congress a fortnight later debate 
began afresh on the merits of the Instructions 
of June 15th, to be renewed from time to time 
till the very end of the war. 42 All efforts, how- 
ever, to procure the outright repeal of these in- 
structions crumbled before the argument that 

American plenipotentiaries "in the manner most conformable to the 
dignity of the United States," and her rejection of a "plan of 
negotiation proposed by the mediating powers" which had "held 
up the idea" of the status quo for America, Journals, XXI. 1138- 
9. Cf. Doniol, V. 39-43. Doubtless, La Luzerne's report of 
June 13 had demonstrated to Vergennes the unfeasibility of ac- 
cepting the status quo for the United States except as a very 
desperate measure. 

"Journals of the Continental Congress, XXI. 1122 fn. 

"See ib., XXII. 44-5, 429, 458-60, XXIII. 870-5; Doniol, IV. 625- 
6 and 696-701; Thomson Papers, 63-5 and 93-108; and Writings of 
James Madison, I. 226 and 294-301. 


such action, by the offense it would cause France, 
would do more harm than good, that while the 
instructions were doubtless a sacrifice of pride, 
they were a sacrifice of pride to more substantial 
interests. 43 Furthermore, Congress had before 
it the explicit assurance of Vergennes, who was 
now chief -minister, that the king "would use his 
influence and credit for the advantage of his allies 
whenever a negotiation should render their inter- 
ests a subject of discussion." 44 

This assurance suggested to Congress a way 
out of its difficulty. By the resolutions of Jan- 
uary 22nd, 1782, the Instructions of June 15th 
were still left standing, but the American commis- 
sioners were ordered to contend "with an earnest- 
ness becoming the importance of an object on 
which a great part of the United States abso- 
lutely depend" both for commerce and subsis- 
tence, "for an explicit acknowledgment of the 
common right of these United States to take fish 
in the North American seas and in particular on 
the banks of Newfoundland," and "with equal 
earnestness," "for the boundaries of the United 
States as described in the instructions" of Aug- 
ust 14th, 1779, and further, "to represent to His 

43 Above references. See also notes 22, 24, 27, 29, 31, and 32, 

44 Journals, XX. 1138. Livingston makes the quite positive state- 
ment that this assurance was what decided Congress to continue 
the Instructions of June 15 in effect after Yorktown, Livingston 
to Jay, Jan. 4, 1783, Wharton, VI. 178-9 fn. 


Most Christian Majesty" "the most sanguine 
expectations" of Congress that "His Majesty's 
friendship and influence will obtain for his faith- 
ful allies" both these objects. 45 

In other words, Congress solved the dilemma 
created by Yorktown the dilemma, to wit, of 
American expectations on the one hand and 
French sensibilities on the other by shifting the 
responsibility to the shoulders of the American 
commissioners. Ten weeks later Grasse's fleet 
encountered Rodney's in the Bahama Channel 
and was utterly defeated, Grasse himself being 
taken prisoner. Yet, and it is a striking com- 
ment on the complex diplomatic situation in 
which the United States and France were mutu- 
ally involved the former derived distinct ad- 

45 Ib., XXII. 44-5. Livingston communicated the resolutions to 
La Luzerne, Jan. 24, Wharton V. 126-7. The resolutions were 
preceded by Livingston's elaborate letter to Franklin of Jan. 7, 
1782, in support of the claims of the United States to a boundary 
at the Mississippi, to the navigation of that river, and to a share 
in the Newfoundland fisheries, Wharton, V. 87-94. They were 
followed by the resolution of Apr. 30, in which Congress expressed 
approval of Jay's course as detailed in his report of the preceding 
Oct. 3 (see next chapter) ; and by a second resolution, adopted 
Aug. 6, 1782, ordering him to decline any propositions from Spain 
before transmitting them to Congress, unless his accession thereto 
"was necessary to the fulfilment of the stipulation on the part of 
the United States contained in the separate and secret article" of 
the treaty with France. Journals of the Continental Congress, 
XXII. 219-20 and 449-51. Whether these resolutions reached Jay 
in time to influence his conduct at the peace negotiations, I do 
not know, but conceivably they did. 


vantage from this defeat of their ally, perhaps 
indeed, greater advantage than they would have 
from her victory. For it was Rodney's triumph, 
the news of which reached London on the eve- 
ning of May 18th, that encouraged the British 
government in the idea of attempting to separate 
America from her allies in the peace negotiations 
that were just to begin, the theory being that if 
the wastage of the American war could be 
brought to an end, England could afford to con- 
tinue the war on the sea with the Bourbon 
powers. 46 That this assault upon their loyalty 
contributed materially to the success with which 
the American envoys met in the negotiations is 
altogether unquestionable. In short, America 
at this period was the lucky banker at the wheel 
of fortune: she ventured little, leaving that to 
others but whoever won, she won. 

46 See Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, III. 194-5 and 203. For 
the consolatory memoir which Vergennes presented the king on 
Grasse's defeat, see Doniol, V. 118-20. The moral he draws is that 
France must give the lie to Lord North's statement at the begin- 
ning of the war, "que la France debute toujours avec supriorite, 
mais qu'elle se relache dans ses efforts, autant que 1'Angleterre 
multiplie et acroit les siens." 



The story of Jay's part in the negotiations of 
1782 is one that has never ceased to interest 
American students. In relating this well-known 
episode, I have not sought to avoid the problems 
of casuistry that, thanks to the opposed labors of 
the pious and the critical it has come to involve. 
At the same time, I have endeavored to organize 
my treatment of these problems in conformity 
with my main theme, wherefore I treat Jay's 
action primarily as a foil to French policy touch- 
ing the negotiations. But as French policy at 
this point leaned heavily on Spanish policy, and 
as Jay imbibed at Madrid the point of view 
from which his course at the negotiations took its 
departure, I feel that a brief review of his mis- 
sion to the latter country will not be inap- 
posite. 1 

1 The following account of Jay's Spanish mission is drawn from 
his long reports to the President of Congress, of May 26 and Nov. 
6, 1780, Oct. 3, 1781, and Apr. 28, 1782, which are to be found in 
Wharton, III. 707-34, IV. 112-50 and 738-65, and V. 336-77. The 
constituent documents of these reports will also be found in the 
Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay (H. P. Johnston, 
ed., New York, 1890, 4 vols.), vols. I and II, passim. 


Jay set out for his post October 20th, 1779, and 
arrived at Cadiz January 22nd, 1780. Never re- 
ceived officially in the entire course of thirty 
month's sojourn at the court of His Catholic Ma- 
jesty, snubbed personally by nobility and officials, 
often without funds from the failure of his salary 
to reach him, put constantly to great expense in 
following the migratory court from pillar to post, 
embarrassed by the remarkable course of Con- 
gress in drawing on him when he had not a sou in 
prospect, put off again and again with the most 
transparent excuses, his correspondence sub- 
jected to official espionage and molestation he 
underwent, without doubt, one of the most trying 
experiences that has ever fallen to the lot of an 
envoy clothed with the dignity of his govern- 
ment's commission. 

Yet at the outset, Jay's mission was not with- 
out signs of promise. He was received by Flor- 
ida Blanca with great promptitude and given 
strong hopes of considerable financial aid before 
the end of the year, as well as of a treaty which, 
at no remote date, would establish the long sought 
via media between the legitimate interests of both 
Spain and America respecting the Mississippi 
question. 2 But early in July, 1780, came the 
news of the loss of Charleston. "The effect of 
it," wrote Jay, "was as visible the next day as 
that of a hard night's frost on young leaves. 

2 Wharton, III. 709-11, 732-5. 
8 Op. tit., IV. 123. 



Meantime, Congress was constantly drawing on 
its envoy, and bills of exchange were constantly 
accumulating against him in the hands of the 
brokers, with the result that his financial difficul- 
ties were soon appalling. 4 On July 5th, he had 
a long conference with the minister as to ways 
and means of meeting these bills, but, in his own 
expressive phrase, "not a single nail would 
drive." 5 Nor was he more successful in his ef- 
forts at correspondence. Four successive notes 
remained unanswered, and an attempt to see the 
minister proved equally unavailing. 6 Finally, on 
September 3rd, Don Diego Gardoqui, one of the 
friendly house of Bilboa merchants that since the 
beginning of the war had been carrying on a con- 
siderable trade in contraband with the United 
States, presented himself to Jay with Florida 
Blanca's compliments, and proceeded to propose 
point-blank that, in return for financial assist- 
ance, the United States should surrender their 
claims to the navigation of the Mississippi. Jay 
rejected the offer indignantly and was shortly 
after informed that even the limited credit 
which His Majesty had thus far extended was, 
for "reasons of state," withdrawn. 7 

4 76., III. 722; IV. 122 ff. 

8 76., 125. 

76., 127-8. 

T 76., 133-5. There was much talk at this time and for some 
months later of sending Gardoqui to America to take the place 
filled by Rendon, as Miralles' successor, 6., 741-2, 764. As a 


At this moment, fortunately, "some glorious 
reports from America arrived," and the Spanish 
government reconsidered its harsh decision. On 
September 15th Gardoqui informed Jay that if 
he could find credit for that sum, His Majesty 
would be answerable for as much as one hundred 
and fifty thousand dollars, 8 and eight days later 
the minister himself conferred with Jay a second 
time on the subject of a treaty. The conference 
revealed, however, that a treaty was probably 
far distant. Actually, as Florida Blanca inad- 
vertently admitted, the Spanish monarch was 
determined not to recognize the United States 
before England did. 9 Primarily this was because 

matter of fact Gardoqui did not arrive in the United States till 
May, 1785. For the negotiations then undertaken between him 
and Jay, who was now secretary of Foreign Affairs, see Ban- 
croft, VI. 421-2. 

8 Wharton, IV. 139. 

9 "After a variety of other remarks of little importance he 
made a very interesting observation, which will help us to ac- 
count for the delays of the court, viz.: That all these affairs 
could with more facility be adjusted at a general peace than 
now, for that such a particular and even secret treaty with us 
might then be made as would be very convenient to both. . . . 
Throughout the whole conversation [May 23, 1781] the count 
appeared much less cordial than in the preceding one; he seemed 
to want self-possession, and to that cause I ascribe his incautiously 
mentioning the general peace as the most proper season for com- 
pleting our political connections. I had, nevertheless, no reason 
to suspect that this change in his behavior arose from any cause 
more important than those variations in temper and feelings which 
they who are unaccustomed to govern themselves often experience 
from changes in the weather, in their health, from fatigue of busi- 
ness, or other such like accidental causes." Ib., 746. 


he feared the example and effect of American 
independence on his own dominions; but con- 
nected with this fear was Spain's desire, which 
Florida Blanca constantly stressed, to maintain 
her monopoly of commerce in the Gulf of Mex- 
ico. The Count, wrote Jay, 

made several observations tending to show the impor- 
tance of this object to Spain and its determination to 
adhere to it, saying with some degree of warmth that, 
unless Spain could exclude all nations from the Gulf 
of Mexico, they might as well admit all; that the king 
would never relinquish it; that the minister regarded it 
as the principal object to be obtained by the war, and 
that obtained, he should be perfectly easy whether or 
no Spain procured any other cession ; that he con- 
sidered it far more important than the acquisition of 
Gibraltar, and that if they did not get it, it was a matter 
of indifference to him whether the English possessed 
Mobile or not. 10 

Late in October Jay received word that Gates 
had been defeated at Camden and that the elder 
Laurens was in the Tower. "Our sky in this 
quarter," he wrote, "is again darkened with 
clouds not in my power to dispel." 11 Further- 
more, this was the period of the Spanish gov- 
ernment's negotiations with the Englishman 
Cumberland, which, as we have seen, menaced the 
United States with the status quo. Not until 
March, 1781, did Cumberland leave Madrid, that 

w /6., 145-6. 
11 Ib., 149. 


is, several weeks after Spain had ostensibly 
agreed to a fresh campaign. 12 

Meantime, by the resolution of February 15th, 
Congress had instructed Jay to recede from 
his previous instructions so far as they insisted 
on the free navigation of the Mississippi below 
the 31st degree, "provided such cession shall be 
unalterably insisted on by Spain"; and on May 
18th Jay received advices to this effect from the 
secretary of Congress. 13 He greatly regretted 
the step, arguing that, inasmuch as Spain was 
herself now "at war with Great Britain to gain 
her own objects," she would be apt to "prosecute 
it full as vigorously as if she fought for" ours. 14 
Also, as certain papers that should have accom- 
panied Lovell's letter did not arrive and the letter 
itself had passed through the post-office, he 
suspected that Florida Blanca knew as much 
about Congress' change of front as he did; and he 

u "If they have rejected all the overtures of Britain," wrote Jay 
in Nov., 1780, "why is Mr. Cumberland still here? And why are 
expresses passing between Madrid and London through Portugal?" 
Ib., 148. Jay records Cumberland's departure in his report of 
Apr. 25, 1781: "Mr. Cumberland is on the road home. I much 
suspect that he was sent and received from mutual views in the 
two courts of deceiving each other. Which of them has been most 
successful is hard to determine. ... As to the assurances of the 
minister on this subject, they are all of little consequence, be- 
cause on such occasions courts only say what may be convenient, 
and therefore may or may not merit confidence. Time and cir- 
cumstances will cast more light on this subject." Ib., 388. 

13 76., 738-40. 

"76., 743. 


wrote: "The moment they saw that the cession 
of this navigation was made to depend upon their 
persevering to insist upon it, it became absurd to 
suppose that they would cease to persevere." 15 

Finally on July 2, taking the bull by the horns, 
Jay informed Florida Blanca outright that the 
great obstacle to a treaty between the United 
States and Spain had been removed by the action 
of Congress itself, and expressed the hope that 
His Majesty would "now be pleased to become 
the ally of the United States." 16 Ten days went 
by and the communication still remained un- 
noticed by the Spanish minister. Jay then called 
at the Pardo and was informed that the reason 
for the seeming neglect was the press of business 
consequent upon the court's intention to remove 
shortly to San Ildefonso. On August 4th Jay 
himself repaired to the new capital and something 
over a month later was able to secure an inter- 
view with the minister, who had filled up the in- 
terval with alternating pleas of illness and busi- 
ness. 17 The conference was resultless, but a 
second one a fortnight later produced a request 
on Florida Blanca's part that "Mr. Jay . . . 
would offer him such a set of propositions as 
might become the basis of future conferences 
between him and the person whom he expected 

15 Ib., 744. 
1- /6 V 747. 
11 76., 750-4. 


His Majesty would appoint." 18 The request was 
complied with four days later. By the sixth arti- 
cle of the proposed agreement, the United 
States relinquished to His Catholic Majesty "the 
navigation of the river Mississippi from the 31st 
degree of north latitude . . . down to the 
ocean." Accompanying the article, however, was 
the explanation that "the offer of this proposi- 
tion, being dictated" by the circumstances of the 
war, "must necessarily be limited by the duration 
of them and consequently that if the acceptance 
of it should, together with the proposed alliance, 
be postponed to a general peace, the United 
States will cease to consider themselves bound by 
any propositions" now made in their behalf. 19 

Of course the offer came to nothing, and on 
November 21st we find Jay writing Franklin that 
"this court continues to observe the most pro- 
found silence respecting our propositions." 20 
Three weeks later Jay secured another interview 
with the minister, who informed him that a cer- 
tain M. del Campo "had been appointed nearly 
three months ago to treat and confer" with him, 
but that "shortly after the court removed from 
San Ildefonso that gentleman's health began to 
decline" and that it had only insufficiently 
checked its deplorable tendency very recently. 

18 76., 758. 

19 Ib., 760-2. 
M Ib., V., 346. 
21 Ib., 348. 



However, Jay now began to pay court to M. del 
Campo, with whom he finally obtained an inter- 
view some six weeks later. 

I found M. del Campo [he writes] surrounded by 
suitors. He received me with great and unusual civility 
and carried me into his private apartment. I told him 
that, as he was evidently very busy, I could not think 
of sitting down and wished only to detain him a few 
moments. He said that he was indeed much engaged 
but that we might, nevertheless, take a cup of chocolate 
together. 22 

A few weeks later Franklin wrote Jay from 
Paris requesting that he "render himself" there 
for the approaching peace negotiations as soon as 
possible. "You would," said the venerable doc- 
tor, "be of infinite service. Spain has taken four 
years to consider whether she should treat with 
us or not. Give her forty, and let us in the mean- 
time mind our own business." 23 The middle of 
June Jay left for Paris, expectant of renewing 
negotiations there with Aranda. But these ex- 
pectations proved as footless as preceding ones 
had been. Aranda refused to show Jay his pow- 
ers to treat for the good reason that he had 

23 Ib., 356-7. For a good summary of the delays Jay had met 
with in Spain, see La Fayette to Vergennes, Mar. 20, 1782, &., 
266. For the episode of the invitation that was sent to Jay by 
mistake, to dine with the Spanish minister, and was declined when 
renewed to him in his quality as "a private gentleman of dis- 
tinction," see ib., 373-7. 

23 Letter of Apr. 22, 1782, ib., 321. 


none and Jay refused to proceed without this 
preliminary. 24 

Writers have implied that Jay went up to 
Paris in 1782 in a rather suspicious frame of 
mind, and it is certain that if he had ever been 
inclined to regard diplomatic questions in a senti- 
mental light he had been pretty well cured of the 
tendency by the time he left Madrid. "In poli- 
tics," he wrote Franklin at the close of this period, 
"I depend upon nothing but facts, and therefore 
never risk deceiving myself or others by a reli- 
ance on professions, which may or may not be 
sincere." 25 He, accordingly, warned Congress 
of the futility of attempting to form alliances "on 
principles of equality in forma pauperis"'?* 
that the United States, to be "respectable any- 
where," must be "formidable at home" ; 27 that we 
but deceived ourselves if we believed "that any na- 
tion in the world has or will have a disinterested 
regard for us." 28 France, he acknowledged un- 
grudgingly, was doing a vast deal for America 
and often in a handsome and generous spirit that 
added greatly to the value of the favors she ren- 
dered; and he held, that, "so long as" she was 
faithful to us, we were in honor bound to continue 

24 Jay to Livingston, Nov. 17, 1782, ib., VI. 21-5, 28; same to 
same, Dec. 12, ib., 130. 

28 Correspondence and Public Papers, II. 63. 
20 Ib., 20. 

"Wharton, IV. 147. 
28 76., 148. 


in the war for her objects as well as our own. 29 
At the same time, he was under no illusions as to 
the obligations of France to Spain. The latter 
power, he perceived, had been brought into the ex- 
isting war only by special inducements, and he 
did not hesitate to inform Montmorin of his be- 
lief that one of these was "the exclusive naviga- 
tion of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico." 30 
It is not remarkable, then, that he remonstrated 
strongly against the Instructions of June 15th. 
They had, he conceded, "an appearance of pol- 
icy," but, he protested, they forced the American 
envoys to 

receive and obey (under the name of opinions) the direc- 
tions of those on whom ... no American minister 
ought to be dependent and to whom, in love for our 
country and zeal for her service, I am sure that my 
colleagues and myself are at least their equal. 

Indeed, he preferred to resign his commission as 
peace negotiator rather than submit to such a 
control. But he did not resign; and as events 
were to prove, he had underestimated his own 
hardihood of purpose. 31 

29 Correspondence and Public Papers, II. 283. 

"Wharton, IV. 137. This belief Montmorin challenged, but 
he later admitted that Spain was desirous of modifying American 
independence, Jay to Livingston, Apr. 28, 1782, t'6., V. 368. 

* Correspondence and Public Papers, II. 71-2. 



The story of the American negotiations for 
peace, which it was understood from the outset 
were to be carried on separately between the 
American envoys and such representatives as 
Great Britain should accredit for the purpose, 1 

1 Vergennes to La Luzerne, Apr. 9, 1782: "Au reste, M., 
quoique nous d6sirons que le Congres n'entame aucune n6gociation 
directe et qu'il ne fasse point une paix s6par6e, . . . nous sommes 
et serons toujours disposes a consentir que les p!6nipotentiaires 
Am^ricains en Europe traitent conformement a leurs instructions, 
directement et sans notre intervention, avec ceux de la cour de 
Londres, tandis que nous traiterons de meme de notre cdte, 
a condition que les deux negotiations chemineront d'un pas 
gal, et que les deux traits seront signed en meme terns et 
ne vaudront point 1'un sans 1'autre," Doniol V. 78-9. See 
also Oswald to Shelburne, June 9, 1782: "Dr. Franklin then 
said he thought the best way to come at a general peace 
was to treat separately with each party, and under distinct 
commissions to one and the same, or different persons. By this 
method many difficulties . . . would be in a great measure avoided. 
And then at last there would only remain to consolidate these 
several settlements into one genuine and conclusive treaty of 
pacification .... He explained as to the commissions, that there 
might be one to treat with France, one for the Colonies, one for 
Spain, and, he added, one for Holland, if it should be thought 
proper." At the same time Franklin put in a bid for Oswald as 
the American negotiator. Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Life of 


begins to all practical intents with Franklin's 
communication of July 9th to the British agent 
Oswald, wherein was laid down the basis for a 
treaty of peace between the two countries. The 
first four items of this basis, labelled "necessary," 
were as follows: 

1. Independence full and complete in every sense, and 
all troops to be withdrawn ; 2. A settlement of the 
boundaries of the Thirteen States ; 3. A confinement of 
the boundaries of Canada to at least what they were 
before the Quebec Act, if not to still narrower limits; 
4. A freedom of fishing on the Banks of Newfoundland 
and elsewhere, as well for fish as whales. 33 

William, Earl of Shelburne (London, 1876, 3 vols.), III. 207-8. 
The only effort made by the British government for a separate 
negotiation in the United States was through Sir Guy Carleton 
who arrived in New York on May 5, with a commission to make 
"peace or war in North America." Later Carleton was author- 
ized to make peace either with Congress or "through General 
Washington" on the basis of "unconditional independence." See 
Wharton, V. 405-6, 413, 417, and 652, and VI. 15-6. The arrival 
of Carleton evoked the Congressional resolutions of May 31, 1782, 
assuring His Most Christian Majesty of Congress' determination 
"to hearken to no propositions for peace which are not perfectly 
conformable" to the Alliance, and in case such propositions were 
made by the court of London, not to depart from the measures 
which they have heretofore taken for preventing delay, and for 
conducting the discussions of them [such propositions] in confi- 
dence and in concert with His Most Christian Majesty," Journals 
of the Continental Congress, XXII. 312-3. See also to same effect, 
the Resolutions of Oct. 4, 1782, ib., XXIII. 637-9. 

2 Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, III. 243-4. Early in the year 
a correspondence had arisen between Hartley and Franklin touch- 
ing peace. The former had hinted at a separate peace between 
England and America, which suggestion the American had 
spurned. Wharton, V. 80-4 and 112-4. See also Franklin to 


Jay's participation in the negotiations began 
on August 10th, when he and Franklin conferred 
with Vergennes as to the sufficiency of Oswald's 

Rayneval, Mar. 22, transmitting this correspondence, B. F. Stevens, 
Peace Transcripts (Library of Congress). Meanwhile the 
crumbling North cabinet had sent Forth to Paris to make some 
bungling efforts to draw France off from her alliance with the 
United States. Forth offered France her conquests in the West 
Indies, the suppression of the commissionership at Dunkirk, and 
certain advantages in the East Indies. Of course, he failed, 
Revue d'Histoire diplomatique, XIV. 161 ff.; Wharton, V. 298, 
303-5; Journals of the Continental Congress, XXII. 302-3. Over- 
lapping this episode, and so antedating the formation of the Rock- 
ingham cabinet, a correspondence had also sprung up between 
Franklin and Shelburne regarding peace. In consequence of this, 
as early as April 12, Oswald was sent to Paris by Shelburne, who 
was now secretary for Home and Colonial Affairs under Rocking- 
ham, to sound him on the question of peace. Franklin informed 
Oswald "that America was ready to treat, but only in concert with 
France, and that as Mr. Jay, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Laurens were 
all absent from Paris, nothing of importance could be done in the 
affair." At the same time Franklin urged the cession of Canada in 
the interest of a durable peace and gave Oswald a minute of his 
views on the subject. This proposal Franklin afterward renewed 
in his communication of July 9, cited above, but without result. 
On Apr. 23, the Rockingham cabinet agreed to a minute requesting 
that His Majesty have Oswald return to Paris in order to set on 
foot a negotiation with Franklin looking to a general peace and 
"the allowance of independence to America," and that Fox, the 
secretary of Foreign Affairs, suggest a proper person to the king 
to begin a like negotiation with France. In consequence of this 
minute Oswald was sent again to Paris to treat with Franklin, 
while Thomas Grenville was sent by Fox to treat with the French 
minister. On May 18, the cabinet asked the king to direct Fox to 
empower Grenville "to treat and conclude at Paris" "on the basis 
of independence to the Thirteen Colonies in North America"; and 
five days late instructed the latter in negotiating with France, to 
propose the acknowledgment by England of the independence of 


commission, which empowered that amiable gen- 
tleman to treat, not with the United States of 
America, but with "the said colonies and planta- 
tions." 3 Jay urged that "it would be descending 
from the ground of independence" to treat under 
such a description. Vergennes, however, urged 

that names signified little; that the king of Great Bri- 
tain's styling himself the king of France was no obstacle 
to ... France's treating with him; that an acknowl- 
edgment of our independence, instead of preceding, must 
in the natural course of things be the effect of the treaty. 

America "in the first instance." Fox, interpreting these minutes 
as establishing a single negotiation, that with France, who, ac- 
cordingly, was to be assured at the outset of England's intention 
to recognize American independence, now authorized Grenville to 
take over the whole business of peace-making. At first his plan 
was checked by the refusal of Vergennes to treat with regard to 
American interests, both because His Majesty had no power to do 
so and also because "the dignity of the king of England and of 
the United States required the establishment of a direct negotia- 
tion between the two," Vergennes to La Luzerne, June 28, 1782, 
Doniol, V. 88. In order to meet this objection Fox now em- 
powered Grenville to treat with the king of France "and any 
other Prince or State," Fitzmaurice, op. cit., III. 214-7. Mean- 
time, however, Shelburne had protested against the American 
negotiation being removed from his department and the king had 
sided with him. From the confusion thus resulting the situation 
was relieved by the death of Rockingham on July 1st, and the 
accession of Shelburne the day following to the Prime Minister- 
ship. Fox now left the cabinet and Grenville threw up his com- 
mission as envoy. Meantime, the Parliamentary Enabling Act 
had been passed, and on July 25 Oswald received his first com- 
mission, while, a fortnight earlier, Fitzherbert, the British minister 
at Brussels, had been appointed to take the Grenville's place. Fitz- 
maurice, op. cit., III. chs. IV and V; Doniol, V. ch. III. 
' Wharton, V. 613-4. 


Upon leaving Vergennes' presence Franklin im- 
puted the minister's attitude to a desire to remove 
"every obstacle to a speedy negotiation." But 
Jay, who had been led to believe by the mystify- 
ing conduct and language of another British 
agent, Grenville, that there was still some doubt 
about the British government's according inde- 
pendence, drew the conclusion that Vergennes 
was prepared to profit by this uncertainty by 
getting Spain out of the war before England and 
America could come to terms. They wish, said 
he to Franklin, "to make their uses of us": the 
Count foresaw "difficulties in bringing Spain into 
peace on moderate terms, and that if we once 
found ourselves standing on our own legs . . . 
we might not think it our duty to continue in the 
war for the attainment of Spanish objects." 4 

* Jay to Livingston, Wharton, VI. 12-9. This letter, 6., 11-51, is 
Jay's apology for the course described in the text. It is also to 
be found in the Correspondence and Public Papers, II. 366-452. 
The statement by Grenville that is referred to is his assertion, 
upon leaving Paris, that Shelburne had no intention of granting 
America her independence, Fitzmaurice, op. cit., III. 246. This en- 
tirely unwarranted assertion was the source of the whole mis- 
understanding between Jay and Vergennes on the matter of 
independence. As is clear from his course with both Grenville 
and Fitzherbert, Vergennes was determined not to begin negotia- 
tions till he was definitely assured that the British government was 
ready to recognize American independence, Doniol, V. ch. Ill, 
passim; Fitzmaurice op. cit., III. 251-2. Journals of the Conti- 
nental Congress, Sept. 24, 1782, XXIII. 596-604. Jay, on the other 
hand, felt that Grenville's declaration was sufficient to call into 
question any mere statement by the British government henceforth 


Jay was, of course, quite right in suspecting 
that the great difficulty in the way of peace was 
the necessity France was under of satisfying 
Spain, and from this it was a reasonable deduc- 
tion that the French Foreign Office might be 
tempted to resort to underhand expedients to 
prolong the negotiations between the United 
States and England. 5 On the other hand, it does 

of its intentions as to independence, and that nothing could now re- 
move uncertainty save the act of recognition itself, or what would 
be equivalent to an act of recognition if peace succeeded. To his 
view, therefore, Vergennes' willingness to forego the actual recogni- 
tion of independence by England till the treaty of peace was tanta- 
mount to willingness to postpone, till the end of the negotiations 
perhaps, the question whether there should be such a recognition 
at all. Herein, he was wrong. "We may judge of the intentions of 
the court of London," Vergennes wrote La Luzerne, Aug. 14, "by 
their first propositions. If they have independence for their basis 
we may proceed; if not, we must break off," Doniol, V. 110. 

* "When once independence has been definitely offered to the 
United States, if it is not followed immediately by peace it will 
not be difficult to persuade them that the continuation of the 
war has an entirely different object from their interests," Mont- 
morin to Vergennes, Aug. 12, 1782, Stevens, Peace Transcripts. It 
should be noted in passing that, in an effort to reassure the Amer- 
icans of his good faith, Shelburne had furnished Franklin with a 
copy of his letter to Sir Guy Carleton of June 25. This letter men- 
tions that Grenville had been instructed to propose American inde- 
pendence "in the first instance, instead of making it the condition 
of a general peace." At the same time, however, this letter also 
brought forward the point, "that if the negotiation is broken off 
it will undoubtedly be for the sake of France and Spain and 
not America, and that any delay in obtaining peace would be 
attributable to the same cause, Wharton, VI. 15-6. While, there- 
fore, this document was reassuring in one way, in another it con- 
firmed Jay's suspicions. These suspicions were in formation be- 


not appear how the postponement, to the conclu- 
sion of peace, of British recognition of American 
independence a matter which, Vergennes had 
informed himself was a foregone result would 
have delayed proceedings. The truth is that, owing 
to his misapprehension of Shelburne's good- 
faith, Jay was playing the very game that, by his 
assumption, Vergennes wished to have played, 
that is, he was creating delay. Nevertheless, in so 
doing he forwarded American interests. For in 
an effort to meet his demands and to bring to an 
end the delay they were causing, Townshend, act- 
ing for Shelburne, authorized Oswald on Sep- 
tember 1st "to agree to the plan of pacification" 
that had been proposed by Franklin, "to the full 
extent" of the "necessary" articles and, further, 
"to waive any stipulation" in behalf either of 
British creditors or of the American loyalists. 6 
But even this concession did not abate Jay's 
determination to treat on no other footing than 
as the representative of independent states; and 
there now followed a succession of events which 
galvanized his obstinacy to swift and positive 

fore he left Spain. "France," he wrote Livingston, in his report 
of Apr. 28, "is ready for a peace, but not Spain. The king's eyes 
are fixed on Gibraltar .... If England should offer us peace 
on the terms of our treaty with France, the French court would 
be very much embarrassed by their alliance with Spain, and as yet 
we are under no obligations to persist in the war to gratify this 
court" (the emphasis is mine), ib., 373. 
Fitzmaurice, op. tit., III. 254-6; Bancroft, History, V. 563-4. 


action. It should be mentioned that, on the same 
occasion when Oswald's commission had been first 
discussed with Vergennes, the conflicting claims 
of Spain and the United States in the region west 
of the Mountains had also been brought into the 
conversation. The minister himself, Jay records, 
"was very reserved and cautious; but M. Rayne- 
val, his principal secretary, who was present, 
thought that we claimed more than we had a right 
to." 7 This tone on Rayneval's part, it is prob- 
able, was somewhat material in forming Jay's 
unfavorable opinion of the minister's argument 
on the question of Oswald's commission. Be that 
as it may, Rayneval next proceeded to develop 
his views to Jay more at length, and on Septem- 
ber 7th sent him an elaborate memorandum in 
support of them and proposing that the lands 
south of the Ohio be divided into two Indian pro- 
tectorates, the one toward the Mississippi to be 
under Spain, the one toward the Mountains to be 
under the United States, and that the lands north 
of the Ohio be left to England. 8 Then on Sep- 
tember 9th Jay "received certain information that 
on September 7th M. Rayneval had left Versailles 
and was gone to England, that it was pretended 
he was gone into the country, and that several 
precautions had been taken to keep his real des- 
tination a secret." 9 Finally, on September 10th 

'Wharton, VI. 23. 
*Cf. p. 309 supra. 
9 Wharton, VI., 28. 


"a copy of a translation of a letter from M. Mar- 
bois to the Count de Vergennes against our shar- 
ing in the fishery" was put into the American's 
hands. 10 

10 76., V. 740 and VI. 29. Jay states that he is "not at liberty 
to mention the manner in which this paper came" to his hands, 
but Fitzmaurice says that it was communicated "by means of one 
of the secret agents in the employment of the English government," 
op. cit., III. 257. Writers have attempted to cast doubts on the 
authenticity of this document, but these doubts are adequately met 
by the following passage from Vergennes' despatch of Aug. 12, 
1782, to La Luzerne: "Le Sr. de Marbois propose un expedient 
pour arre"ter les esprances des Am^ricains et les men6es de M. 
Samuel Adams; mais le Conseil du Roi juge que comme nous ne 
sommes lie's par aucun engagement, nous n'avons aucune mesure 
a prendre pour preVenir les clameurs et les reproches, et toute 
demarche de notre part tendante a ce but seroit au moins pr6- 
mature"e; d'ailleurs, nous avons du terns de reste pour nous expli- 
quer lorsque la matiere des pe"cheries sera s^rieusement discut6e 
entre les plnip'res Ame>icains et le commissaire de la cour de 
Londres." Doniol, V. 157. In his despatch of Jan. 4, 1783, to 
Jay, Livingston, Congress' secretary for Foreign Affairs, belittles 
the significance of Marbois' communication. He is not, he says, 
surprised by it, "since he [Marbois] always endeavored to per- 
suade us that our claim to the fisheries was not well founded." 
Then he continues: "Yet one thing is very remarkable, and I 
hope evinces the determination of France to serve us on this point: 
The advice given to discourage the hope is certainly judicious, and 
yet we find no steps taken in consequence of it. On the contrary, 
we have been repeatedly told in formal communications since 
that period, 'that the king would do everything for us that cir- 
cumstances will admit.' . . . This communication was made on 
the 21st of last November from letters of the 7th of Septem- 
ber .... Congress, relying upon it, have made no alteration in 
their instructions since the change in their affairs by the blow 
the enemy received at Yorktown. This letter of Marbois, and the 
conduct of the court of France, evince the difference between a 


Jay was now thoroughly aroused and thor- 
oughly alarmed, especially for American interests 
in the West. France stood ready, he now felt 

great politician and a little one .... Our exclusion from the 
fishery would only be beneficial to England." Wharton, VI. 
177-80 fn. This argument would be more persuasive if the letters 
of September 7th, relied upon by Livingston, had not been fol- 
lowed by such expressions as that quoted above, from the despatch 
of August 12, 1782, where Vergennes clearly contemplates the 
possibility of intervening in the discussion of the fisheries question 
between the British and American negotiations, against the Amer- 
ican pretensions. And to the same effect is the following passage 
from the French minister's despatch of June 28: "Je preVois, M., 
qu'il y aura encore de grands de"bats au Congres au sujet des 
limites de quelques e"tats. Si le Congres ne se laisse pas en- 
trainer par I'intdre't personnel et les clameurs des provinces du 
Nord, il envisagera la paix comme le plus grand des bienfaits 
qu'il puisse desirer; il se gardera bien d'exiger la moindre faveur, 
a titre de droit, d'un puissance a laquelle une portion 6norme de 
son domaine va 6chapper; il se bornera a demander ce que le 
droit commun assure aux Ame>icains, et il se re"servera de de- 
mander une plus grande extension lorsque 1'Angleterre lui pro- 
posera des arrangements de commerce. Je me flatte surtout, M., 
que les Am6ricains ne pr^tendront pas que le Roi se fasse fort 
de leur procurer 1'extension de pche qu'ils convoitent, et encore 
moins qu'il fasse le sacrifice de ses propres pcheries pour les 
dedommager du refus de la Grande-Bretagne. Sa M'te" ne consen- 
tira ni a 1'un ni a 1'autre ; tout ce qu'elle pourra f aire sera d'accorder 
ses bons offices selon que les circonstances le lui permettront; mais 
elle est invariablement resoliie de ne point sacrifier le r6tablisse- 
ment de la paix a une pretention mal fondle." Doniol, V. 90-1. 
To like effect are Vergennes' despatches of Oct. 14 and Nov. 23 
to La Luzerne, Stevens, Peace Transcripts; Doniol V. 176-9. Also, 
we should not ignore the testimony of Lord St. Helens (formerly 
Fitzherbert, the British negotiator with France), in his letter to 
Judge William Jay, in 1838, that Vergennes had argued strongly, 
in 1782, against the Americans being admitted to the fisheries, 


convinced, in case the United States would not 
give Spain the territory she wanted in that re- 
gion, to aid the latter in negotiating with Eng- 
land for it; and Rayneval, he believed, had gone 
to England to sound Shelburne on the American 
claims, to impress upon him France's disapproval 
of them, and "to hint the propriety of such a line 
as would on the one hand satisfy Spain and on 
the other leave to Britain all the country north of 
the Ohio." 11 He at once determined on aggres- 
sive measures. Without consulting Franklin, he 
sent Benjamin Vaughan, a friend of both Frank- 
lin and Shelburne, to London to combat Rayne- 
val's reasoning and to urge a new commission for 
Oswald authorizing him to treat with "the United 
States of America." 12 Vaughan's mission proved 
successful, and upon the new basis the negotia- 
tions proceeded till November 30th, when "provi- 
sional articles" were signed, embodying the 
conditions of a treaty to be concluded when terms 
of peace should "be agreed upon between Great 

on the ground that it would be dangerous to accord them so 
great a nursery of sea-power. Henry Flanders, Lives and Times 
of the Chief Justices (Phila., 1858), I. 343. Then, there is the point 
made by Adams, "that, aiming at excluding us from fishing upon 
the north side of Newfoundland, it was natural for them [the 
French] to wish that the English would exclude us from the south 
side," Wharton, VI. 93. For an estimate of the fisheries as 
a nursery of seamen, see ib., III. 789. 

11 Wharton, VI. 29. 

12 Ib., 29-32, 45-7. 


Britain and France," which did not occur till 
some six weeks later. 13 

Was Jay's conduct, which by their ratification 
of it became that of his fellow commissioners also, 
justifiable? The severest criticism meted out 
to the commissioners was that of Vergennes in his 
heated letter to Franklin of December 15th, 
which was called forth by the latter' s announce- 
ment that he was about to forward the Provi- 
sional Articles to Congress by a vessel for which 
a passport had been secured from the king of 
England. 14 

I am at a loss, sir, [wrote the irate minister] to explain 
your conduct and that of your colleagues on this occa- 
sion. You have concluded your preliminary articles 

"The Provisional Articles are given in Appendix V. A ques- 
tion raised in Parliament with reference to them was whether 
"American independence was to take effect absolutely at any 
period, near or remote, whenever a treaty of peace was concluded 
with the court of France, or was contingent merely, so that if the 
particular treaty now negotiating with France should not ter- 
minate in a peace, the offer was to be considered revoked and the 
independence left to be determined by events," Parliamentary 
History, XXIII. col. 306. Shelburne denounced the question as 
"unwise" and "unprecedented" and refused to answer it: "he was 
bound to keep the secrets of the king . . . the thing was done, 
the treaty signed and sealed, and whether good or bad, its pro- 
duction could not vary it," ib. What was the character of the 
contract in the provisional articles? This question was dis- 
cussed in Congress, and the opinion arrived at by Wilson of Penn- 
sylvania was that it was "contingently definitive," Writings of 
Madison, I. 448-50. See also a question raised as to the interpre- 
tation of the preamble, ib., 410. 

"Wharton, VI. 137-8. 


without any communication between us, although the 
instructions from Congress prescribe that nothing shall 
be done without the participation of the king. You are 
about to hold out a certain hope of peace to America 
without even informing yourself on the state of the 
negotiation on our part. You are wise and discreet, sir ; 
you perfectly understand what is due to propriety ; you 
have all your life performed your duties. I pray you to 
consider how you propose to fulfill those which are due 
to the king? 15 

Technically, of course, the violation by the 
commissioners of their instructions was a mat- 
ter exclusively between them and Congress, 
besides which these instructions had been voted 
with the mediation of the Imperial courts in 
view, while the negotiations of 1782 pro- 
ceeded along quite different lines. Nor again, 
did the action of the commissioners technically 
violate the pledge given in the Treaty of Alliance, 
that the United States would conclude neither 
truce nor peace with Great Britain without first 
obtaining the formal consent of France. The 

w Ib., 140. Franklin's soothing answer is given ib., 143-4. Frank- 
lin admitted that the Americans had "been guilty of neglecting a 
point of bienseance'' But he urged that "this little misunderstand- 
ing ... be kept a secret," as "the English, I just now learn, 
flatter themselves they have already divided us" (the emphasis is 
Franklin's). At the same time, Franklin insisted that the articles 
ought to be sent to America, arguing that it would be better for 
Congress to have the commissioners' account of them than the 
British account. On the 24th, the articles were sent off, ib., 153 
fn. For a further expression of the attitude of the Foreign 
Office toward the conduct of the commissioners, see Vergennes 
to La Luzerne, Dec. 19, ib., 150-2. 


Provisional Articles were not a separate peace 
nor did they "hold out a certain hope of peace." 
It may be admitted, however, that they were in- 
tended to convey a warning that the United 
States reserved the right to make a separate 
peace, if a final peace should be obstructed by 
France for reasons not covered by the Treaty of 
Alliance. In other words, the articles reclaimed 
for the United States that right to construe their 
treaty obligations which, when exercised in good 
faith, belongs to all sovereignties, and which Con- 
gress had surrendered by its instructions/ 


"There is, therefore, no necessary contradiction between Jay's 
language to Oswald and to La Fayette. "Upon my saying," Os- 
wald wrote Townshend, Oct. 2, "how hard it was that France 
should pretend to saddle us with all their private engagements 
with Spain, he [Jay] replied: 'We will allow no such thing. For 
we shall say to France: The agreement we made with you we 
shall faithfully perform; but if you have entered into any separate 
measures with other people not included in that agreement, and 
will load the negotiation with their demands, we shall give our- 
selves no concern about them.' " Stevens, Peace Transcripts. On 
Jan. 19, 1783, Jay wrote La Fayette, with reference to the Pro- 
visional Articles, thus: "It appears to me singular that any doubts 
should be entertained of American good faith. . . . America has so 
often repeated and reiterated her professions and assurances of 
regard to the treaty alluded to [the Treaty of Alliance], that I 
hope she will not impair her dignity by making any more of them.'* 
Correspondence and Public Papers, III. 25. But see also Edward 
Channing, History of the United States, III. 384-5, for proof of 
the fact that Jay urged Oswald to press his government to under- 
take the reconquest of West Florida from the Spaniards, and even 
suggested to that end that some of the British troops at New York 
and Charleston be used for the purpose. In this way the British 
forces in the United States would have been weakened; the Brit- 


The question that at once prompts itself is 
whether the United States, having regard to the 
kinds and scope of the assistance they had had 
from France, were altogether free to claim the 
prerogatives of sovereignty in relation to their 
engagements with that country. No doubt, in 
theory the United States were "sovereign and in- 
dependent" allies of France; but more imposing 
than any theory is the fact that, at the very mo- 
ment of communicating the Provisional Articles 
to Vergennes, Franklin was obliged by instruc- 
tions from Congress to solicit a fresh loan from 
His Most Christian Majesty. 17 And the circum- 
stance is indicative of what had been the actual 
situation from the very outset of the alliance. 
But such being the case, was not the Foreign 
Office at liberty, within reasonable limits, to make 

ish concession to the United States of the right to navigate the 
Mississippi would have been rendered effective; and Spain would 
have been humiliated. 

"Congress wanted a loan of twenty millions, and on Dec. 21 a 
loan of six millions was extended, Wharton, VI. 152 fn. Some 
writers have attributed this concession to the pleasing effects of 
Franklin's note of Dec. 17, quoted above. It is much more prob- 
able that the concession was instigated by the consideration 
suggested in the text, that so long as Congress was the recipient 
of such favors from France it was not likely to cut loose from 
the French leading-strings. In justice to the commissioners, how- 
ever, one should recall the principle invoked by Jay in Spain, that 
the United States, being a sovereign nation, were free to borrow 
money "on the same consideration that other nations did," namely, 
"the repayment of the principal with interest," and accordingly, 
without putting their more permanent interests in pawn. See 
Wharton, IV. 134-6. 


the best arrangements it could in the interest of a 
cause which was certainly not less that of Amer- 
ica than of France; and granting the measures so 
taken to have been taken in good faith, were not 
the United States in honor bound to shoulder 
their legitimate consequences? Jay himself had 
owned that it was farcical to seek an equal alliance 
in forma pauperis. It was, perhaps, a little less 
than honest to pretend to maintain one on that 

"The separate and secret manner in which our 
ministers had proceeded with respect to France 
and the confidential manner with respect to the 
British ministers," Madison records, "affected 
different members of Congress very differ- 
ently." 18 Madison himself thought the conduct 
of the commissioners censurable, taking substan- 
tially the point of view just expounded. He ad- 
mitted that France had mingled too much artifice 
in her dealings with America, and that her truest 
policy would have been a more straightforward 
course. He also conceded that the ties of France 
with Spain, "whom she had drawn into the war, 
required her to favor Spain, at least to a certain 
degree, at the expense of America." 19 None the 
less, he contended that, "instead of cooperating 
with Great Britain" to take advantage of "the 
embarrassment in which France was placed by 

18 Writings, I. 404. 

19 Ib., 296. 


the interfering claims of Spain and the United 
States," the envoys "ought to have made every 
allowance and given every facility to it consistent 
with a regard to the rights of their constituents." 
The facts alleged by the envoys, he continued, 
showed no "hostile or ambitious designs" against 
our claims on France's part, nor any other design 
"than that of reconciling them with those of 
Spain"; wherefore, an impartial world must re- 
gard the action of the commissioners as striking 
"a dishonorable alliance with our enemies as 
against our friends." Indeed, a measure of con- 
sideration had been due Spain herself, for not- 
withstanding the disappointments and indignities 
which the United States had received from her, 
"it could neither be denied nor concealed that the 
former had derived many substantial advantages 
from her taking part in the war, and had even 
obtained some pecuniary aids." 20 

Rightly or wrongly, the commissioners mod- 
elled their course upon more robust principles. 
Jay, a quick and sensitive temperament, who had 
in Congress shown himself not a little compliant 
with French views, had been cast by his experi- 
ences in Spain into an attitude of patriotic self- 
assertiveness, an attitude to which the Congres- 
sional instructions added fresh fuel. Adams' 
hardy provincialism needed no special incentive to 
patriotic self-assertion, though it had this in his 

Ib., 418. 


intense interest in seeing Massachusetts restored 
to her fishing privileges off the Grand Banks. 
Franklin, burdened with years, was perhaps over- 
borne to some extent by his more vigorous col- 
leagues but he also felt, and had from the first, 
a keen desire to see the United States reach to 
the Mississippi. 21 All these men, moreover, had 
been of the pioneers of American independence, 
among the first to conceive a national destiny for 
the American Provinces. 

But the immediately provoking cause, of 
course, of the independent policy adopted by the 
commissioners was Jay's suspicions, and these, 
it has been frequently urged by writers, were not 
altogether well-placed. Nevertheless, I think it 
has to be conceded that most of Jay's errors were 
rather as to the motives represented by certain 
facts than as to the facts themselves or their 
natural tendency; and even such mistakes as 
he made were compensated for to a singular de- 
gree by facts that he did not know. Today, how- 
ever, the essential elements of the situation that 
confronted the commissioners are plain ; they may 
be summarized thus : First, the necessity France 
was under to obtain peace as speedily as possible ; 
second, the positive obligation she was under not 

31 See Jay's testimony on this point, Correspondence and Public 
Papers, II. 390. See also the commissioners' letter to Livingston, 
Dec. 14, in which Franklin assents to the statement, "We knew 
this court and Spain to be against our claims to the Western 
country," Wharton, VI. 132. 


to accept peace until Spain was satisfied; 22 third, 
British resistance, ever becoming stiffer, to 
Spain's principal demand, the surrender of Gi- 
braltar; 23 fourth, Spain's scarcely secondary 
interest in thrusting the Americans back from the 
Mississippi; fifth, Vergennes' denial that the 
reciprocal guaranty of the Treaty of Alliance 
was yet operative except as to American inde- 
pendence; sixth, his entire disbelief that there 
was any likelihood of England's conceding the 
American claims, either as to the fisheries or the 
Western lands, and his repeatedly announced 
intention of bringing the Americans to reason if 
they persisted in untenable claims ; 24 seventh and 

"Peace, Vergennes had written in August, 1779, could be con- 
cluded only on two conditions: "la satisfaction pleniere du roi 
d'Espagne et la reconnaissance des Etats-Unis dans leur e"tat de 
Iibert6 et d'independance," Donjol, IV. 339-40. 

18 Even on his first mission to London Rayneval had reported the 
British reluctance to the cession of Gibraltar as almost insuperable. 
"My lord Shelburne s'est apesanti sur Gibraltar; il s'est aplique" 
avec chaleur a me prouver que la cession en est impossible, il m'a 
par!6 de la resistance que cet article 6prouveroit au Conseil; que 
le lord Keppel, lorsqu'il lui en a par!6, lui dit nettement qui si 
on parloit de c6der Gibraltar, il prendroit son chapeau et s'en 
iroit," ib., V. 616. See also Fitzmaurice, op. cit., III. 262, 275, 289, 
305, 312. 

24 See note 10 supra. See also Vergennes to La Luzerne under 
dates of Oct. 14 and Nov. 23, 1782, Stevens, Peace Transcripts; 
Doniol, V. 176-8. Note the following expressions from the latter 
document: "Le Roi ne sera moins exact a les tenir de son cdt6 [cer- 
tain conditions], mais il n'en existe aucune [condition] dans nos 
trait6s qui Poblige a prolonge> la guerre pour soutenir les pr6ten- 
tions ambitieuses que les Etats-Unis peuvent former soit par rapport 


last, the procedure governing the negotiations, 
whereby the Americans were left to shift for 
themselves, while the Foreign Office took the 
Spanish interest under its wing from the begin- 
ning. No one of these facts was necessarily of 
fatal import for American interests, but the en- 
semble is somewhat impressive. To it, moreover, 
may be quite legitimately lent the coloration of 
one or two other circumstances. The first of 
these is Rayneval's early mission to England. 
True, the primary purpose of this had to do with 
Gibraltar, but the young secretary took what op- 
portunity the occasion offered, none the less, to 
disparage the American claims with the British 
ministers, if quietly yet not ineffectively. 25 

a la peche, soit par rapport a 1'etendue des limites .... Malgr6 
toutes les cajolleries que les ministres anglois prodiguent aux 
Amricains, je ne me promets qu'ils se montrent facils ni sur 
les peches ni sur les limits . . . ," ib., 177. The earlier docu- 
ment is even more positive in tone. It is interesting to 
compare this tone with that taken by Rayneval with reference to 
Gibraltar: "le Roi, s'il en toit besoin, se feroit un devoir d'exhorter 
le roi d'Espagne a etre moder dans ses pretensions, mais Sa 
Majest6 ne pourroit aucunement parler de 1' abandon de Gibraltar," 
ib., 618. 

35 The following extracts from Rayneval's report of his con- 
ferences with Shelburne are the significant ones: "Mais mylord 
craint les Americains et les Hollandois; j'ai encore dit qu'il y 
auroit moien de les d6router, principalement en leur laissant ig- 
norer Petat de la negotiation entre la France, 1'Espagne, et 
PAngleterre. Cet article tient infiniment a coeur a mylord Shel- 
burne," Doniol, V. 614. (It is interesting to compare this sug- 
gestion with Vergennes' later complaint to Franklin, that the 
Americans had not tried to inform themselves as to the state of 


Again, one should, perhaps, not altogether ignore 
this further consideration: "The French are 
interested in separating us from Great Bri- 

the Anglo-French negotiation, note 15, supra). "Est venu le 
tour de I'Amlrique; mylord Shelburne a pre"vu qu'ils auroient 
beaucoup de difficult^ avec les Ame"ricains, tant par rapport aux 
limites que par rapport a la peehe de Terre-Neuve, mais il espere 
que le Roi ne les soutiendra pas dans leurs demandes. J'ai r6- 
pondu que je ne doutois pas de 1'empressement du Roi a faire ce 
qui d^pendra de lui pour contenir les Ame>icains dans les bornes 
de la justice et de la raison; et mylord ayant desire" savoir ce que 
je pensois de leurs preventions, j'ai r6pondu que j'ignorois celles 
relatives a la peche, mais que telles qu'elles puissent etre il me 
sembloit qu'il y avoit un principe sur a suivre sur cette matiere, 
savoir, que le peche en haute-mer est res nullius et que la peche sur 
les cdtes apartenoit de droit au proprieVaire des c6tes, a moins de 
derogations fondles sur des conventions. Quant a I'eVendue des 
limites j'ai supos^ que les Ame"ricains la puiseroient dans leur 
chartres, c'est a dire qu'ils voudront aller de 1'Ocean a la mer du 
Sud. Mylord Shelburne a traite les chartres de sottises, et la 
discution n'a pas 6t6 pouss^e plus loin parceque je n'ai voulu, 
ni soutenir la prevention Ame>icaine, ne l'ane"antir. J'ai seule- 
ment dit que le ministre Anglois devoit trouver dans les n6gocia- 
tions de 1754 relatives a 1'Ohio les limites que PAngleterre, alors 
souveraine des 13 Etats-unis croyoit devoir leur assigner," ib., 618- 
9. The reference to the negotiations of 1754 is explained by the 
following passage from the memoir which Rayneval had only a 
few days before this presented to Jay on the Mississippi ques- 
tion: "It is known that, before the Treaty of Paris, France 
possessed Louisiana and Canada, and that she considered the 
savage people situated to the east of the Mississippi as either inde- 
pendent or as under her protection. This pretension caused no 
dispute; England never thought of making any [pretension?] 
except as to the lands situated towards the source of the Ohio, in 
that part where she had given the name Allegheny to that 
river." Wharton, VI. 25. The reaction of the English ministers to 
what Rayneval had to say about the American claims is recorded 


tain . . . but it is not their interest that we 
should become a great and formidable people." 26 
The words are Jay's, but Vergennes himself had 
said as much time and again. 

In short, the commissioners were confronted 
with an appreciable danger, in meeting which 
they displayed sagacity and spirit. However, it 
may still be a question whether their policy really 
netted the United States a profit or a loss; and 
in fact, it has been argued that it did the latter. 
The pivotal fact upon which this contention 
hinges is the rejection by Shelburne on October 
20th of a draft treaty which had been agreed to 
by Oswald, and which, in addition to granting 
the Americans everything they had asked for 
with reference to the fisheries and the West, ac- 
corded the United States a northern boundary 
that included much that is today Canada and 
maintained complete silence as to the claims of 
British creditors and of the loyalists, whereas the 

by Shelburne's biographer, thus: "They then proceeded to speak 
about America. Here Rayneval played into the hands of English 
ministers by expressing a strong opinion against the American 
claims to the Newfoundland fishery and to the Valley of the 
Mississippi and the Ohio. These opinions were carefully noted 
by Shelburne and Grantham," op. tit., III. 263. When the Pro- 
visional Articles arrived in London, Rayneval was there on a second 
mission. Being shown them he remarked upon the embarrassment 
that the article according the United States the navigation of 
the Mississippi would cause Spain, but elicited a very unfeeling 
response from Shelburne, Doniol, V. 229. 
*Wharton, VI. 48. 


Provisional Articles of November 30th made 
certain concessions on the two latter points and 
drew a much more restrictive northern boundary. 
Now, it is urged that the rejected draft treaty 
was in entire accord with Townshend's letter of 
September 1st to Oswald, that the motive of the 
British minister in authorizing such extensive 
concessions to the Americans was the hope 
of separating them from the French, that 
Vaughan's mission, by revealing to Shelburne 
that this end had already been accomplished, in- 
stigated him to retract in a measure his policy of 
concession, and that, therefore, the unfavorable 
differential between the draft treaty and the later 
Provisional Articles must be charged against 
Jay's headiness and precipitancy. 27 

The argument is ingenious but not convincing. 
To begin with, it will be recalled that, whatever 
the ulterior motive of Townshend's letter, it was 
called out immediately by Jay's demand that the 
British government should recognize American 
independence preliminary to treating. Again, 
while this letter empowered Oswald to agree to 
"a settlement of the boundaries," there is plainly 
some difference between an adjustment of boun- 
daries and such a cession of territory as that made 
by the draft treaty of lands to the west of the 

"Phillips, The West in the Diplomacy of the American Revolu- 
tion, pp. 220-1. See also to same effect Works of Benjamin Frank- 
lin (ed. Bigelow), VIII, 164 fn. 


Mountains and later repeated by the Provisional 
Articles. But again, it was not Vaughan's mis- 
sion that first informed Shelburne and his asso- 
ciates that there was a rift in the French- Ameri- 
can lute, it was Rayneval's mission and his attack 
on American pretensions. Finally, the assertion 
that Vaughan's mission persuaded Shelburne that 
the objective of his policy had been realized and 
that, consequently, he might abandon the policy, 
is mere conjecture, and not very plausible conjec- 
ture at that. Unquestionably, it was Shelburne's 
purpose to divide France and America but it was 
also his purpose to keep them divided till peace 
was obtained, and peace had not yet been obtained 
when, on October 20th, he rejected the draft 
treaty "as in no way adapted to our present cir- 
cumstances." 28 Indeed, it seems to me that a 
more plausible conjecture would be, that it was 
not so much the success of his policy as its com- 
parative failure that may have influenced Shel- 
burne to some extent at this moment. For the 
draft treaty, like the later Provisional Articles, 
was to go into effect only when France had also 
arrived at terms with England. However, the 
circumstance that really determined the fate of 
the draft treaty is no mystery. It was the arrival 
at this moment of the news that Howe had lifted 
the siege of Gibraltar ; and the day following his 
letter to Oswald, Shelburne also wrote Rayneval 

28 Shelburne to Oswald, Oct. 20, Fitzmaurice, op. cit., III. 283. 


that England would not yield Gibraltar to Spain 
nor St. Lucia and Dominica to France. 29 

Naturally, it would be impossible to determine 
with minute exactitude the extent to which the 
United States profited by the action of the com- 
missioners in ignoring their instructions ; and yet 
it is a matter that admits, I think, of rather con- 
fident speculation when the two controlling fac- 
tors of the situation are clearly set forth. The 
first and more important of these is the hope that 
was held out to the British cabinet by the inde- 
pendent attitude of the Americans that if the 
United States were satisfied with the terms they 
received from England, they would refuse to 
continue in the war in the interest of Spain. It 
was because of this hope that the cabinet yielded 
the Americans their demands as to the boundar- 
ies and the fisheries, and it is almost inconceivable 
that they would otherwise have done so. But in 
the second place, once this concession was ratified, 
the hands of the British government were tied, 
and it could neither offer nor demand equivalents 
within the field of American pretensions. 30 At 
one point, however, this statement demands 
qualification, but only with the result of reinf orc- 

"Ib., 280. 

30 It must be recognized in this connection that it was not only 
the possibility that England would deny Gibraltar to Spain that 
was dangerous to American interests. For if England had given 
up Gibraltar, she would have demanded equivalents, and these 
might very well have lain within the field of the American preten- 
sions. See Phillips, op. cit., 210 and Doniol, V. 617. 


ing the principal argument. By the separate and 
secret article of the Provisional Articles, Eng- 
land retained the right for herself to a northern 
boundary to West Florida at the line running due 
eastward from the mouth of the Yazoo river, but 
not the right to accord Spain a boundary to the 
same province north of the thirty-first degree. 

The contemporary estimate of the achievement 
of the commissioners confirms this analysis most 
strikingly. The commissioners themselves in 
communicating the articles to Congress, though 
somewhat apologetic for the concessions that had 
finally been made in the interest of the loyalists 
and the British creditors, used the quiet terms of 
profound satisfaction: "We can not but flatter 
ourselves that they [the articles] will appear to 
Congress as they do to all of us, to be consistent 
with the honor and interest of the United 
States." 31 Congress' estimate of the terms was 
governed in part by the jealousies of sections and 
factions, but it is to be noted that those who had 
expected most were most gratified. "Mr. Wol- 
cott," Madison records, "conceived it unnecessary 
to waste time on the subject" a proposition to 
communicate the separate article to the French 
envoy "as he presumed Congress would never 
so far censure the ministers who had obtained 
such terms for this country as to disavow their 

81 See their letter to Livingston, Dec. 14, Wharton, VI. 131-3. 


conduct." 32 The event proved that Wolcott had 
judged rightly, for the proposition referred to 
never came to a vote. The directest testimony, 
however, is that afforded by the comments of the 
Foreign Office on the articles : 

You will notice [Vergennes wrote Rayneval] that the 
English buy peace rather than make it. Their conces- 
sions indeed, as well in the matter of the boundaries as 
in that of the fisheries and the loyalists, exceed all that 
I could have thought possible. 33 

Rayneval agreed : 'the treaty 'with America ap- 
peared to him a dream, and the English ministers 
in according it had had in view ultimately the 
defection of the Americans.' 34 

However, it must be remembered that the Pro- 
visional Articles were provisional. Indeed, their 
immediate effect was to diminish the likelihood of 
peace, by encouraging the British cabinet to set 
an impossible price upon Gibraltar. 35 And, of 
course, had the war been renewed, the Americans 

33 Writings, I. 411. Note also his statement: "The terms granted 
to America appeared to Congress on the whole extremely liberal," 
to., 403. 

83 Dec. 3, Wharton, V. 293-4; Doniol, V. 188. See also his letter 
of July 21, 1783, to La Luzerne where he says: "The boundaries 
in the Mississippi region must have astounded the Americans. 
Surely they did not flatter themselves that the English ministry 
would go beyond the mountains that hem in the United States 
from the Ohio to Georgia," to., 293-4. 

*/&., 270. 

36 Ib., 228-30 and 251-6. The equivalent first demanded by Eng- 
land for Gibraltar was the French islands, Guadaloupe and 
Dominica, to., 220. After the arrival of the news of the American 
signature St. Lucia was added to the list; or in its place, Trinity; 


would have had either to part with their winnings 
or with the French alliance. Aid came from an 
unexpected quarter. Early in December the 
Spanish ambassador received a despatch from 
Madrid, dated November 23rd, in which inquiry 
was made as to "what considerable advantage 
Spain could expect from the treaty, if, for any 
reason," His Catholic Majesty "made the sacri- 
fice of withdrawing from" the engagement cre- 
ated by the Treaty of Aranjuez. On December 
5th Aranda placed this despatch before Ver- 
gennes, who at once wrote Rayneval, now in 
London a second time, to offer the abandonment 
of Gibraltar if Spain were given Minorca and the 
two Floridas. Ten days later came an affirma- 
tive response from Rayneval, and Aranda, 
though without instructions from Madrid, gave 
his approval. Florida Blanca's wrath when he 
learned the bold course of his envoy was tremen- 
dous, and even Char less Ill's chagrin is badly 
concealed in his letter of January 2nd to Louis 
sanctioning peace. Vergennes' delight, on the 
other hand, was boundless. "I bow before the 
Sovereign Being," he exclaimed to Aranda, "and 
return him my heartfelt thanks for His infinite 

or for all three, Porto Rico, ib., 256. It seems to me unlikely, 
however, that Parliament would have accepted peace if Gibraltar 
had been included among the concessions made to England's ene- 
mies. As it was, though the peace was accepted, a vote of censure 
was passed against it in the House of Commons, Parliamentary 
History, XXIII. cc. 514 and 571. 


wisdom, which has disposed the heart and mind 
of the Catholic king to give up the cession of 
Gibraltar." To Montmorin he expressed him- 
self to like effect: While he would not like to 
see such diplomatic usage established as that fol- 
lowed on this occasion by the Spanish ambassa- 
dor, "it is none the less true that we owe peace 
to his courageous resolution." 36 

On January 20th preliminary articles were 
signed by the representatives of France and 
Spain on the one hand and of Great Britain on 
the other. 37 The same day Adams and Frank- 
lin Jay being absent from Paris signed a 
declaration asserting that the Provisional Arti- 
cles were not designed to "alter the relation of 
the United States toward England so long as 
peace should not be concluded between His Most 

Rousseau, "Participation de 1'Espagne la Guerre 
d'Am6rique," Revue des Questions historiques, LXXII. 484-9. 
See also Doniol, V. 237-41, and ch. VIII passim. Even after 
the Gibraltar question was settled, the negotiations were nearly 
wrecked by England's demand that Dominica be given her. At 
the same time there was a strong war party at the French court 
as well as the British, among the opponents of Vergennes' policy 
being his own minister of the Marine, Castries, ib., 270. Accord- 
ing to Florida Blanca, at the moment peace was signed a joint 
French-Spanish expedition consisting of seventy ships of the line 
and 40,000 men was ready to sail for the West Indies, Coxe's 
Memoirs of the Kings of Spain, III. 344-6. The negotiations were 
finally saved by England's proffer of Tobago and certain conces- 
sions in Pondicherry to France in return for Dominica, Doniol, 
V. ch. VIII. 

37 They will be found in the Parliamentary History, XXIII. 


Christian Majesty and His Britannic Majesty" 
and "repudiating any interpretation of them con- 
trary to this assertion." Thus, says M. Doniol, 
was "the alliance in some sort renewed." 38 

In reality, the one entangling alliance of our 
history, the indispensable instrument of our 
deliverance as a nation, was now at an end. Ten 
years and one day from the promulgation of this 
declaration Louis XVI mounted the guillotine. 
One month after that war began between France 
and England. Two months later Washington 
proclaimed American neutrality. His action 
represented the deliberate decision that the most 
vital interests of the United States would not 
admit of its adhering to the pledges given in 
1778. But indeed, France had long since be- 
come reconciled to the idea that America was 
not an available ally. Some six years before 
Washington and his cabinet determined to cast 
aside the Treaty of Alliance, the French repre- 
sentative at Philadelphia was urging his govern- 
ment to seize New York and Newport to prevent 
their falling into the hands of Great Britain in 
the event of war. The Foreign Office replied 
that it had anticipated just such developments, 
but that it consoled itself that France had 
"never pretended to make America a useful 
ally," that she had had "no other end in view than 
to deprive Great Britain of that vast continent." 39 

38 Doniol, V. 277 and fn. 

39 The Cabinet of Versailles to Otto, the French charg at Phila- 


delphia, Aug. 30, 1787, Bancroft, History of the Formation of the 
Constitution of the United States (N. Y., 1882, 2 vols), II. 438. 
The attitude of France toward her American alliance after the War 
of Independence looked primarily toward preventing the restora- 
tion of English influence. In this connection the following pas- 
sages from the Instructions of Montmorin, Vergennes' successor, to 
the Count de Moustier, who became the French envoy at Philadel- 
phia in the fall of 1787, are interesting: Le Comte de Moustier 
jugera par la qu'il devra s'attacher a fortifier les Ame>icains dans 
les principes qui les ont engage a s'unir a la France: il leur 
fera sentir pour cet effet, qu'ils ne sauroient avoir d'Allie plus 
naturel que le Roi, tandis qu'ils peuvent etre certains que 1'Angle- 
terre jalouse leur prosperity et qu'elle y nuira autant qu'elle en 
trouvera F occasion. . . . Ce seroit se tromper volontairement que 
de supposer que cette puissance [England] ne cherche pas a 
diminuer les sentiments qui doivent attacher les Etats-Unis a la 
France, et a ope>er insensiblement leur raprochement de leur 
ancienne Mere-patrie. II sera utile que le Ministre du Roi suive 
la marche des agens anglais, et qu'il fasse ce qui dpendra de lui, 
mais sans affectation, pour rendre nulles leurs insinuations." "Me- 
moire pour servir d'Instructions au Sieur Comte de Moustier," 
Oct. 10, 1787, American Historical Review, VIII. 710-1. Mont- 
morin expected that if war broke out between France and Great 
Britain "the Americans would wish to remain neutral," and in- 
dicated the probability that France would favor this disposition. 
However, he continued, "circumstances may counteract our prin- 
ciples," Bancroft, op. tit., II. 444. A few months later Moustier 
reported an argument by Jay to the effect that the Treaty of 
Alliance no longer subsisted, to which proposition Montmorin 
demurred strongly: "Le Roi et son conseil, M., ont et6 singu- 
lierement etonnes de 1'opinion 6u est M. Jay que FAlliance entre 
le Roi et les Etats-Unis ne subsiste plus. Ce ministre a done 
oubli6 les termes dans lesquels cette Alliance a 6tfe concue: s'il 
veut bien relire le traitS du 6. fevrier 1778 et se convaincre qu'elle 
est perpetuelle. ... II convient, M, que vous rectifiez les ide>s de 
M. Jay sur ces diff6rents objets: vous 1'assurerez que le Roi regarde 
son alliance avec les Etats-Unis comme inalterable; que Sa. M'te. a 
toujours pris et qu'elle ne cessera de prendre un int6ret veritable 
& leur prosperite, et que Sa. M'te. continue a a y contribuer autant 
qu'elle le pourra sans prejudice a ses propres int6rets. Viola, M., 


la doctrine que vous devez faire germer et que le Conseil du Roi 
a t6 surpris de voir si mal 6tablie." Montmorin to Moustier, 
June 23, 1788, American Historical Review, loc. cit., 728. Four 
years later the monarchy gave place to the republic and Genet 
came to the United States. His "Instructions d'ArriveV' contained 
an interesting attack on the "Machiavellism" of Vergennes' policy 
toward America, the basis of the charge being the former minister's 
opposition to American acquisition of Canada; and the implication 
was that the new government would be controlled by much more 
liberal principles. Annual Report of the American Historical 
Association for 1903, II. 202-3. At the same time Genet was in- 
structed to get a new treaty with the United States extending the 
articles with reference to commerce and navigation, "as the just 
price of the independence which France won for the United States," 
and renewing the guaranty of the Treaty of Alliance of French 
possessions in the West Indies. 76., 207-11. Both the Treaty of 
Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance were declared 
"void" by the Senate on June 25, 1798, and by the House of Rep- 
resentatives on July 7. This action of the Houses was posited on 
the right of Congress to judge of infractions of the Law of Na- 
tions, Annals of Congress, 5th Congress, I. 586-8, II. 2116-28. 



In the ensuing chapter I shall discuss the out- 
come of French intervention in the War of Inde- 
pendence from the point of view of the objective 
of that enterprise. The treaty of peace between 
France and England throws little light on the 
subject, albeit France obtained some minor ad- 
vantages by it, an island in the West Indies which 
she had lost in 1763, a strip of land on the West 
African coast, an enlargement of her fishing 
rights in Newfoundland, the suppression of the 
articles relative to Dunkirk. The treaty is signi- 
ficant rather as a symbol. England, exhausted 
by the war, "had not blushed to be the first to 
petition for peace," and the treaty itself had 
"erased the stain" of 1763. Thus Vergennes 
writes in his Memoire to the King, of March 29th, 
1784, where, moreover, he presents the treaty as 
the consummation of a period of conspicuous tri- 
umph for his entire system. 1 

Louis, the minister records, had ruled but a 
decade, yet within that brief period he had re- 

1 S^gur, Politique de Tous Us Cabinets, III. 196-219. 


stored peace to Europe no fewer than four times. 
In Germany by the Treaties of Teschen he had 
vindicated afresh France's prerogative as guar- 
antor of the Treaty of Westphalia. Twice in the 
Southeast he had rescued Turkey, at the cost 
to that power of some small subtractions of terri- 
tory, from the clutch of its enemies. Meanwhile, 
the transparent disinterestedness of His Majes- 
ty's principles had won the confidence of Europe, 
so that all nations had been content to see him 
"lower the pride of England and labor for her 
enfeeblement." 2 In brief, France was once more 
what she had been, "the moderator and arbiter" 
of Europe, the power that "gave the tone" to the 
European concert. "Placed in the center of 
Europe, strong by virtue of the contiguity and 
unity of her provinces, and by the wealth and 
population of her soil," girt round by protecting 
fortresses and by neighbors mutually isolated, 
she was free to forego aggrandizement and to 
devote all her influence "to the preservation of 
the established order and to preventing the differ- 
ent states which compose the European balance 
from being destroyed." 3 

Over against this chant of victory and accentu- 
ating its triumphal note, stand the contemporary 
lamentations of Englishmen at the downfall of 
Britain through the loss of her American empire. 

'76., 201. 

*Loc. cit. See also p. 218. 


"The greatest statesmen whom England had pro- 
duced," writes Wraxall of this period, "though 
they concurred in scarcely any other political 
opinion, yet agreed on the point that, with the 
defalcation of the Thirteen Colonies from the 
crown, the glory and greatness of Britain were 
permanently extinguished." 4 The Parliamen- 
tary debates support his assertion. "Are we," 
Burke caustically inquired in his speech on the 
address from the throne following the receipt of 
the news of Yorktown, 

are we to be told of the rights for which we went to war ? 
Oh, excellent rights ! Oh, valuable rights . . . that 
have cost England thirteen provinces, four islands, 
100,000 men, and seventy millions of money ! Oh, won- 
derful rights, that have lost to Great Britain her em- 
pire on the ocean, her boasted, grand, and substantial 
superiority which made the world bend before her! Oh, 
inestimable rights, that have taken from us our rank 
among nations, our importance abroad, and our happi- 
ness at home ; and that have taken from us our trade, 
our manufactures, and our commerce ; that have reduced 
us from the most flourishing empire in the world to 
one of the most unenviable powers on the face of the 
globe! 5 

The same sentiment was voiced on one occa- 
sion or other by men of all parties, by Lord 
George Germaine, North's minister of War, 
who maintained that "from the instant when 

4 Historical Memoirs (Phila., 1845), 366. 
8 Parliamentary History, XXII. col. 721. 


American independence should be acknowledged 
the British empire was ruined"; 6 by Sir John 
Cavendish of the Whig opposition, who declared 
that "the great and splendid empire of Britain 
was nearly overturned"; 7 by Shelburne, who as- 
serted that "whenever the British Parliament 
should recognize the sovereignty of the Thirteen 
Colonies, the sun of England's glory was forever 
set." 8 A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, 
commenting on Great Britain's "astonishing de- 
cline" "from being the first maritime power in the 
world," accounted for it in the following strain 
of philosophic resignation: 

In these vicissitudes the hand of Providence, by 
which the government of the world is directed, is most 
manifest. Nations and peoples are permitted to arrive 
at a certain pitch of greatness, and when at the height 
are doomed to fall to decay. None of the great mon- 
archies of ancient time, so celebrated in history, nor 
even the Republic of Rome itself, were ever in posses- 
sion of half the territory which Great Britain could 
boast at the commencement of the reign of George III. 
By its so suddenly crumbling to pieces, part after part, 
does it not seem that this is a devoted Empire? 9 

Wraxall, op. tit., 367. 

''Parliamentary History, XXII. col. 1114. 

8 Same as note 6. And see generally the debates on the treaties, 
Parliamentary History, XXIII. cols. 373-571. 

Vol. LII. 123. See also John Adams to Vergennes, July 13, 
1780: "Breaking off such a nation as this [America] from the 
English so suddenly and uniting it so closely with France is one 
of the most extraordinary events that ever happened among 
mankind," Wharton, III. 855. 


And not only had Britain declined : by the same 
token France had become predominant once 
more. The dominion of America, a Tory writer 
had urged shortly before Cornwallis' surrender, 
gave dominion of the seas, and France's calcula- 
tions had proceeded from this postulate: "The 
balance of power which has from the beginning 
of the reign of Charles V been so diligently 
studied in every part of Europe as a science, and 
which is now brought to a degree of improvement 
unknown to the rusticity of former ages, could 
not but obtrude itself in her councils." 10 "What," 
inquired the learned Dr. Fothergill, in an "Ad- 
dress" to his countrymen, some months later, "can 
France gain by all these expenses if she seeks 
not for territorial possessions in America?" and 
answered his own question thus : 

Why, the uncontrolled superiority in Europe. For, 
where is the power, when America is divided from us, 
that can withstand her? Whilst we had America 
France knew, and all Europe felt, that every distant 
possession they had were so many obligations for her 
peaceable behaviour. They saw America growing so 
populous and so powerful, her commerce increasing and 
increasing the power of Great Britain, that nothing was 
secure from us. 11 

10 Rivington's Royal Gazette (New York), Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, 

"Quoted in the Boston Evening Post and General Advertiser 
of Feb. 23, 1782. The learned doctor continued that, "by the 
people of New England only New Spain would have been added 
to the British Empire in a few years with the succour of the 


"Happy would it be for us," exclaimed another 

if the loss of America was the only evil we have this day 
to deplore. The independence of that country is so 
great an object with the different nations of Europe 
that we have armed nearly one-half of them in its fa- 
vor. . . . The influence of France in the course of this 
war has risen to such a pitch that renders it almost a 
degree of vanity in us to call her any longer the rival of 
this country. She has occupied its place in foreign 
courts and has become in a few years the arbiter of 
Europe. 12 

Even as late as the end of 1782, we find a writer 
declaring in the London Chronicle, that the peo- 
ple of Great Britain were 

ready to part with an eighth or a quarter of all they 
are worth rather than accede to the independence of 
America and suffer so disgraceful and ruinous a dismem- 
berment of the empire, which must in its consequences 
give to France the dominion and commerce of the Euro- 
pean seas and render Great Britain the least significant 
among nations. 13 

British fleet, and France knew that her West Indian islands were 
held by them at our courtesy should a war break out." 

11 Quoted ib., in issue of Mar. 9, 1782. See also the London Gen- 
eral Advertiser of Mar. 6, 1782, where the following sentiments 
appear: "To how infamous and degraded a situation are we 
reduced! . . . What a contrast is the king of France! He is 
without doubt, not only the first monarch of his time, but the 
wisest, greatest, and best of monarchs that ever sat upon any 
throne !" 

"London Morning Chronicle, Nov. 30 and Dec. 5 and 11, 1782. 


The common sense of mankind has pilloried in 
numerous disdainful maxims that odious species 
of wisdom which parades itself after the event. 
And yet if the historian is to be wise, qua histo- 
rian, it must be after the event. The testimony 
we have just reviewed goes far to stamp Ver- 
gennes' policy with the sanction of the statesman- 
ship of that generation. Indeed, the very 
stubbornness with which England had resisted 
American independence implies the same thing. 
We of today, however, easily see that the French 
program, precisely as it was deduced from cer- 
tain premises, rested upon too restricted a founda- 
tion of fact, that its results were neither solid nor 
durable, and that, trifling as they were, they were 
obtained at suicidal cost. Nor is this altogether 
the wisdom of the autopsy. Vergennes himself 
betrayed no little disappointment in the outcome 
of his labors. 

The first respect in which the course of events 
cheated the calculations underlying French in- 
tervention in the War of Independence was the 
swift recuperation of England from her losses. 
For this phenomenon, which, he asserts, had "no 
parallel in the history of the world," Wraxall ad- 
duces three causes : "the preservation of the Brit- 
ish Constitution"; the institution of the sinking 
fund by Pitt; and the extension of British acqui- 
sitions in India, whence an annual revenue of 
fifteen millions sterling, payable in specie, was 


soon drawn. 14 The last two causes were no doubt 
potent, but they cooperated with still more 
powerful ones, the rise of the factory system at 
this same period and the opening up of Eng- 
land's mineral resources. In these circumstances, 
the fact upon which perhaps more than any other 
England's enemies had counted to produce her 
downfall, became a blessing in disguise, the public 
debt. Stabilized by Pitt's measures, the famous 
"consols" rendered British resources fluid and 
turned them into the channels of trade and in- 
dustry as nothing else could have done. 

Still it may be urged that these developments 
would have occurred anyway and that the loss of 
America contributed to offset them. Is this so? 
Vergennes' purpose was to break down both the 
political and the commercial connection between 
England and America, and so far as the former 
was concerned his success was unquestionable. 
Not only was the aid which France lent America 
the efficient cause of the outcome of the war, 
but the sentiment of gratitude which this aid 
engendered among the American people at large 
was a factor of no little importance in weaning 
the country from its natural predilection for the 
former mother-land. 15 As we have seen, the al- 

" Op. tit., 367-71. 

"For a very pessimistic account, from the French point of 
view, of the American propension for things English and the 
English themselves, despite the war, see a letter from Kalb to 
Broglie, quoted in Doniol, IV. 19 fn. This letter was probably 


liance with France was soon discarded, but the 
motive back of the act was not sympathy for 
England but a real vision of national destiny 
which would be foiled and frustrated were the 
nation to be drawn into "the European vortex." 16 
But the more important objective with the For- 
eign Office had been the termination of America's 
commercial dependence on England, to which, 
indeed, the severance of the political bond stood 
somewhat in the relation of means to end. Yet 

known to Vergennes, as it is among the archives of the Depart- 
ment of Foreign Affairs. The chief reason for Vergennes' 
dismay at Jay's behavior was the idea that it sprang from a 
pro-English inclination. "If," he wrote La Luzerne, "we may 
judge of the future from what has passed here under our eyes, 
we shall be but poorly repaid for all we have done for the United 
States and for securing to them a national existence," Wharton, 
VI. 152. On this score, however, he was reassured by La Luzerne: 
"I do not credit him [Jay]," the envoy wrote, "with gratitude to us, 
but he is incapable of preferring England to us ; he glories in being 
independent," etc., La Luzerne to Vergennes, Sept. 26, 1783, 
Steven, Peace Transcripts. On American gratitude to France, see 
the opening paragraph of Pickering's despatch of July 15, 1797, to 
Pickney, Marshall, and Gerry, American State Papers, "Foreign 
Relations," II. 153. Cf. Hamilton's estimate of the motive of 
French aid and of French policy following the War of Indepen- 
dence, Works of Alexander Hamilton (Constitutional ed.), VI. 

"Hence, of course, the American policy of isolation, the first 
and main pillar of the Monroe Doctrine. In the same connec- 
tion see the lengthy letter (probably by Samuel Adams) addressed 
"To the Public," in the Boston Continental Journal and Weekly 
Advertiser of May, 1783, warning against suffering "ourselves, 
either from gratitude or any other principle, to engage in any 
future controversies or quarrels on the other side of the Atlantic, 
if we mean to keep our independence, independent of all the 
world." See also letter of John Adams in Wharton, III. 621 ff. 


it is at this point exactly that Vergennes' reck- 
oning, which, like that of his alarmed English 
contemporaries, was based on the teachings of 
Mercantilism, went most awry. The peace ne- 
gotiations had not yet begun when his auxiliary, 
Dupont, wrote Hutton, early in 1782, that "if 
the war is not too long continued, the Americans 
will be more to England than to us, since the 
language they speak and their former relations 
will naturally lead them to carry on trade with the 
English rather than with France." 17 To be sure, 
it does not appear whether Dupont, who was a 

:T Doniol, V. 36-7 fn. It would seem that there was considerable 
trade between England and America even while the war was still 
in progress. "This," writes Adams to the President of Congress, 
June 26, 1781, "is a subject which deserves the serious considera- 
tion of every American. British manufactures are going in vast 
quantities to America from Holland, the Austrian Flanders, 
France, and Sweden, as well as by the way of New York and 
Charleston, etc.," Wharton, IV. 521. For a Congressional ordi- 
nance designed to check this trade, see Journals of Congress, Dec. 
4, 1781, XXI. 1152. For some evidence of England's rapid re- 
covery of her American trade after the Revolution, see Moustier 
to Montmorin, Feb. 8, 1788, American Historical Review, VIII. 716, 
where the writer complains that the Americans use the monetary 
proceeds of their trade with the French islands to pay for the mer- 
chandise which they import from England; also Baring's 
Inquiry into the Causes and Consequences of the Orders in 
Council (London, 1808), pp. 19 ff. As to French commerce with 
the United States, see a pamphlet in the Pennsylvania Historical 
Society's library entitled Causes qui se sont opposes au Progres du 
Commerce entre la France et les Etats-Unis (Paris, 1790). 
Franklin's hope was to see the United States become commercially 
independent of Europe, Lee's Lee, I. 354. 


disciple of Quesnay, expressed in the passage 
just quoted the views of his superior. But the 
commercial treaty which he negotiated with Eng- 
land early in 1786 affords unmistakable evidence 
that Vergennes' own economic creed had under- 
gone considerable change since the date of the 
Expose Succinct. Even earlier, moreover, he 
had recorded his recognition of the fact that 
American independence had not touched the vital 
sources of British sea-power. In the memoir of 
March 29th, 1784, while asserting that France 
had recovered her influence on the Continent, he 
warned the king that the English fleet would soon 
be "more numerous and more powerful than it 
was at the moment of peace," and that the only 
guaranty of continued good relations with that 
country was the maintenance of the French mar- 
ine on a respectable footing. 19 

At this point, however, it behooves us to re- 
member that in Vergennes' thinking the crippling 
of English sea-power was to be contributory to a 
far more important end, the restoration of French 
leadership on the Continent and the establishment 

"This treaty abolished or lowered many protective duties be- 
tween the two countries, French wines thus obtaining entry to the 
English market in competition with Portuguese, and English man- 
ufactures being admitted to the French market. The treaty was 
a distinct triumph for the views of Adam Smith and the French 
Physiocrats. For contemporary discussion of its provisions, see 
Annual Register, XXIX. 65 ff. 

18 Sgur, III. 217-8. 


there of a reign of peace. Unhappily, this dream 
for it was little more was based on the tra- 
dition of a Europe that no longer existed, of a 
Europe in which Poland, Sweden, and Turkey 
were still effective units of the balance of power ; 
in which Prussia was still dependent on France; 
in which the House of Austria was definitely sec- 
ondary to the House of Bourbon ; in which Russia 
had no voice. Once again, in other words, had 
the minister premitted the conventional creed of 
his office to blind him to the actual facts; and 
once again, in consequence, is he forced to record 
his own disillusionment. "What had rendered 
peace so necessary" the year before, he informs us 
in the document just cited, was "the swift rap- 
prochement" of "the courts of Vienna and St. 
Petersburg, which for twenty years had dwelt in 
open enmity." It was, he continues, a develop- 
ment "calculated to arouse disquiet and alarm"; 
and indeed, his whole tone reveals his own most 
serious concern. 20 Yet it is difficult to see how, 
even if the outcome of the war had been the total 
annihilation of British sea-power, France would 
have been in any better position to deal with this 
formidable and unprecedented combination in the 
Southeast. 21 

/&., 203 ff. 

n ln this connection it should be recalled that in 1774 Ver- 
gennes had considered the feasibility of an Anglo-French rap- 
prochement directed against Russia, See chapter III, supra. 
After the war Shelburne propounded the same idea to Rayneval. 


In a word, the restoration of French prestige 
had altered the actual balance of forces on the 
Continent very little, if at all; and by the same 
sign, it had gone but little way toward guarantee- 
ing the status quo or a lasting peace. Vergennes' 
own recognition of this unpleasant truth was as 
frank as possible: 'It was difficult to flatter 
one's self of a long peace or even to regard the 
existing one as more than precarious, unless the 
power to which alone it belonged to give the tone 
found itself in position to make itself respected.' 
This was France's "superb prerogative"; but 
'good example would not of itself suffice, were 
it not backed up by imposing means.' 'Of all 
human passions, ambition was the most active, 
the one held in leash with greatest difficulty. 
Defect of power alone could render it passive; 
and this could exist only if His Majesty was 
ready and willing to repell all designs on the 

Not only, said the former, were France and England not natural 
enemies but they had many interests in common which ought to 
cause them to come to an understanding. There had been a time 
when no one dared set off a cannon in Europe without the consent 
of England and France, while today the powers of the North 
assumed to stand by themselves. "Let us unite and we shall give 
the law to Europe." Certainly, they were too clear-sighted in 
France not to be convinced that the system of the German em- 
pire was an unnatural one, and that Russia wished to enjoy a 
rdle and had views which were not harmonious with the interests 
of France and England. "If we are in accord we shall take our 
old place once more and shall be able to arrest all revolutions in 
Europe," etc. RaynevaTs Report of his Second Mission to Eng- 
land, Doniol, V. 619-20. 


public security and tranquility.' "Force is the 
surest measure of respect, particularly when it 
is exercised with wisdom and employed with 
justice." 22 

In 1785 Vergennes scored his last great diplo- 
matic triumph, a settlement of difficulties between 
the emperor and Holland and a close offensive 
and defensive alliance between the latter power 
and France. "The Count de Vergennes," com- 
mented the writer in the Annual Register, this 

acquired the honor to his country and the glorious dis- 
tinction to himself of being the pacificator general of 
the universe. It could not but be a grevious considera- 
tion to Englishmen that, while France, through the 
happiness of great ministers at home and their choice 
of able negotiators abroad, was spreading her conse- 
quence and extending her influence through the nations 
of the earth, Great Britain through some unaccountable 
fatality seemed to be fallen from that high seat in which 
she had so long and so gloriously presided and to be no 
longer considered ... in the general politics and sys- 
tem of Europe. 23 

In fact, the triumph, resting as it did on the 
unstable basis of the temporary preponderance 
of the Dutch Republican party, was for France 
an empty one. Within a few months the House 
of Orange, actively backed by Pitt, was again in 
control, and France was signing a declaration 

22 Segur, III. 216-8. 

23 Ib., XXVII. 137. 


"agreeing to a general disarmament and asserting 
that the king of France had never any intention 
of interfering in the affairs of the Dutch Repub- 
lic." "France," said the emperor maliciously, 
"has just fallen. I doubt if she will ever 

recover." 24 

The words were prophetic, more prophetic than 
their author could willingly have intended them 
to be. There were others, however, who had al- 
ready begun to perceive how unreal France's 
triumph over England had been and, on the other 
hand, how terribly real its cost was like to prove. 
One of these was Burke, who in the Annual 
Register for 1787 wrote as follows: 

It seemed a grand stroke of policy to reduce the 
power and humble the pride of a great and haughty 
rival. . . . Nor was this all; for as it was universally 
supposed that the loss of America would prove an in- 
curable, if not a mortal wound to England, so it was 
equally expected that the power of the Gallic throne 
would thereby be fixed on such a permanent founda- 
tions as never again to be shaken by any stroke of for- 
tune. . . . This speculation, like many others, when 
tried by the test of dear-bought experience, came to 
nothing, and their fond hopes have already vanished in 
smoke. . . . But though the American war failed in 
producing its wished for effects in respect to France, it 
left behind it other relics of a less pleasing nature. An 
immense new debt, being laid upon the back of the old, 

^Hassall, The Balance of Power, p. 379, citing Marquis de 
Barral-Montferrat, Dior Ans de Paix armde entre la France et 
I'Angleterre, 178S-9S, I. 54. 


already too great, the accumulation became so vast . . . 
as to exceed all inquiry." "And as the minds of men grow 
attached to those principles which they are embarked in 
require them to maintain . . . , the French nation, re- 
sorting more to provision and principle by which the 
abuses of power are corrected than those by which its 
energy is maintained, have imbibed a love of freedom 
nearly incompatible with royalty. 25 

Seldom indeed has the course of events dis- 
played a more ironical, yet juster logic, than that 
whereby the last considerable achievement of the 
Classical diplomacy an achievement that had 
been planned to secure Europe peace and repose 
for many years had within a decade become the 
funeral pyre of the Old Regime and the starting- 
point of a conflagration more than Continental. 

Early this same year Vergennes died, just as 
the Assembly of Notables was convening to make 
a last effort to rescue the monarchy from bank- 
ruptcy without at the same time invading pre- 
scriptive rights. So his passing was synchronous 
with the passing of the order on whose outworn 
ideals and outlook he had reared his whole ambi- 
tious and mistaken structure. Yet the temper of 
his purpose was something more permanent; for 
the cold sophistry of the diplomat enwrapped the 
ardor of the patriot, as witness the words in which 
he shaped, for the last time as it seems, an apol- 
ogy for his American venture : 

"Annual Register, XXIX. 174-8. 


A nation [he wrote] can experience reverses, and it 
ought to yield to the imperious law of necessity and its 
own preservation ; but when such reverses and the humili- 
ation they entail are unjust, when they have for their 
end the gratification of the pride of a powerful rival, 
then the nation owes it to its own honor, dignity, and 
self respect, to retrieve itself when occasion offers. If 
it neglects to do so, if fear holds it back from duty, it 
adds abasement to humiliation and becomes the object 
of contempt of its own age and of ages to come. These 
important truths, Sire, have never been absent from my 
thoughts. They were already deeply graven on my 
heart when Your Majesty called me to His Council, and 
I awaited with lively impatience the opportunity of fol- 
lowing their lead. These are the thoughts that fixed 
my attention on the Americans, that made me watch for 
and seize the moment when Your Majesty could assist 
that oppressed people with a well-founded hope of 
effectuating their deliverance. If I had had other senti- 
ments, other principles, other views, I should have be- 
trayed your confidence and the interests of the State; 
I should regard myself as unworthy of serving Your 
Majesty, I should regard myself as unworthy the name 
of Frenchman. 26 

28 Doniol, I. 3-4. 


My principal source has been the material 
from the Archives of the French Department of 
Foreign Affairs to be found in Henri Doniol's 
Histoire de la Participation de la France a 
rEtablissement des Etats-Unis d'Amerique, 
Correspondance Diplomatique et Documents, a 
work in five large quarto volumes, containing 
some four thousand pages, and in process of pub- 
lication for fifteen years (1884-99). The work 
embodies four sorts of text: first, the author's 
narrative, which is in large type and is frequently 
a running paraphrase of documentary material; 
secondly, documentary material in small type set 
in the narrative; thirdly, footnotes in fine type 
containing further documentary material and the 
references to the Archives; fourthly, documen- 
tary appendices to the individual chapters in 
small type. The proportion of purely docu- 
mentary material to the author's narrative may 
be illustrated from volume II, which is fairly 
illustrative of the set. This volume contains 864 
pages, of which the extracts from documents fill 
better than 580 pages, printed in small and fine 
type. Making the proper allowance for the dif- 
ferent sizes of type, I calculate that nearly, if 
not quite, four-fifths of the material in these 



volumes is source material. Nor can there be 
any doubt as to the thoroughly representative 
character of this material; indeed, its essential 
completeness. Primarily, of course, I base this 
conclusion upon my perusal of the work, but I 
am confirmed in it by the examination of such 
works as the Stevens Facsimiles,, Circourt's His- 
toire de V Action Commune, and Mr. Phillips' 
scholarly essay on The West in the Diplomacy 
of the American Revolution. It may be confi- 
dently asserted that conclusions which are se- 
curely based on the material in Doniol can only 
be confirmed by further research in the Archives. 
Conversely, for an American student, with 
limited time at his disposal, to attempt an in- 
vestigation of the Archives without a thorough 
acquaintance with Doniol to begin with, would 
be deliberately to incur the risk of one-sided and 
ill-considered, however surprising, results. 

But, of course, there are certain phases of the 
subject of French intervention in the War of 
Independence with which Doniol does not pre- 
tend to deal, while on the phases with which he 
does deal he throws, for the most part, only the 
light shed by the French correspondence. Thus 
he ignores altogether the background afforded 
the subject by the history of eighteenth century 
French diplomacy, and by Choiseul's attitude 
toward the initial phases of the British- Ameri- 
can dispute. To sketch in this background is, 


accordingly, the purpose of the first two chapters 
of the present volume, with which should also be 
grouped the last chapter. The material there 
used, of which the most important items are the 
voluminous Recueil des Instructions, the elder 
Segur's Politique de Tons les Cabinets, De 
Witt's Thomas Jefferson, Soulange-Bodin's 
Pacte de Famille, Bourguet's Due de Choiseul et 
r Alliance Espagnole, Flassan's Histoire Gen- 
erale et Raisonnee de la Diplomatic Francaise, 
and various memoirs, is cited in the footnotes 
with full bibliographical data, which need not be 
repeated here. 

It is also valuable, particularly in connection 
with the dealings of the French envoys with the 
Continental Congress and with the final Peace 
Negotiations, to supplement the French material 
from the American sources. These are to be 
found principally in Wharton's great work and 
the Journals of the Continental Congress, both 
of which have been thoroughly utilized in the 
present volume. In the same connection, I had 
also previously gone through a large mass of 
newspaper material, but my gleanings from this 
have turned out to be of use only to illustrate 
public opinion at times. Finally, of the writings 
of American public men of the period, those of 
Jay, Madison, Charles Thomson, the secretary 
of Congress, and Deane have proved to be of 
most value. 


Hardly less important, however, than the 
American aspect of French intervention is the 
Spanish phase, and for that I have had to rely 
again principally on Doniol; but for a reason 
stated in the text, this is hardly matter for regret, 
for as I point out, the Spanish ambassador at 
Paris throughout the Revolution, the Count 
d'Aranda, did not enjoy the confidence of his 
government, with the result that the French- 
Spanish negotiations were conducted almost ex- 
clusively through the French ambassador at 
Madrid, the despatches to whom and the reports 
from whom are given by Doniol with his usual 
thoroughness. Only at two points, and those 
bearing only remotely on the subject of this 
volume, is it possible that the Spanish archives 
might prove of material value. Thus, in con- 
nection with the Spanish mediation of 1778 it 
would be interesting to have the correspondence 
between Florida Blanca and Almodovar, the 
Spanish ambassador at London; while in con- 
nection with Cumberland's secret mission to 
Spain in 1780, there may be Spanish material 
that would clarify Florida Blanca's rather am- 
biguous attitude at this period. But for the most 
part, it is clear, that the Spanish material touch- 
ing the subject of French intervention is of 
negligible worth, a conclusion which is well borne 
out by such portions of this material as are to be 
found in the Sparks Mss. in the Harvard Uni- 
versity Library. 


Lastly, there are points at which the English 
point of view is of importance in connection with 
the theme of this volume. In such cases, for the 
Parliamentary debates I have used the Parlia- 
mentary History; as a record of English public 
opinion and a repository of public documents, 
the Annual Register; for the correspondence of 
the British government with its ambassador at 
Paris and the reports of British spies, the Ste- 
vens Facsimiles; and for material bearing on the 
final Peace negotiations, the Peace Transcripts, 
also compiled by Stevens and now in the Library 
of Congress. 

For further data bearing on the works just 
mentioned, as well as on the numerous lesser 
works, pamphlets, articles in periodicals, etc., 
that were also used in the preparation of the 
present volume, the reader is referred to the 




concluded at Paris, February 6, 1778 ; ratiBed by Con- 
gress May 4, 1778. 


I. Alliance against Great Britain. 

II. Independence of the United States. 

III. Efforts to be made against Great Britain. 

IV. Concurrent operations. 

V. Conquests to belong to United States. 
VI. Relinquishment of territory by France. 
VII. Conquests to belong to France. 
VIII. Islands in Gulf of Mexico. 
IX. Renunciation of Claims. 
X. Powers invited to accede to alliance. 
XI. Proprietary rights. 
XII. Duration. 
XIII. Ratification. 

The Most Christian King and the United States of 
North America, to wit: New Hampshire, Massachus- 
etts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New 
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, 
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, having 
this day concluded a treaty of amity and commerce, for 
the reciprocal advantage of their subjects and citizens, 

*Text from Wm. Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, etc. (Washing- 
ton, 1910). 


have thought it necessary to take into consideration the 
means of strengthening those engagements, and of ren- 
dering them useful to the safety and tranquility of the 
two parties ; particularly in case Great Britain, in re- 
sentment of that connection and of the good corre- 
spondence which is the object of the said treaty, should 
break the peace with France, either by direct hostilities 
or by hindering her commerce and navigation in a man- 
ner contrary to the rights of nations, and the peace 
subsisting between the two Crowns. And His Majesty 
and the said United States, having resolved in that case 
to join their councils and efforts against the enterprises 
of their common enemy, the respective Plenipotentiaries 
impowered to concert the clauses and conditions proper 
to fulfil the said intentions, have, after the most mature 
deliberation, concluded and determined on the follow- 
ing articles : 


If war should break out between France and Great 
Britain during the continuance of the present war be- 
tween the United States and England, His Majesty and 
the said United States shall make it a common cause 
and aid each other mutually with their good offices, 
their counsels and their forces, according to the exi- 
gence of conjunctures, as becomes good and faithful 


The essential and direct end of the present defensive 
alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, sover- 
eignty, and independence absolute and unlimited, of the 
said United States, as well in matters of government as 
of commerce. 


The two contracting parties shall each on its own 
part, and in the manner it may judge most proper, 


make all the efforts in its power against their common 
enemy, in order to attain the end proposed. 


The contracting parties agree that in case either of 
them should form any particular enterprise in which 
the concurrence of the other may be desired, the party 
whose concurrence is desired, shall readily, and with 
good faith, join to act in concert for that purpose, as 
far as circumstances and its own particular situation 
will permit; and in that case, they shall regulate, by a 
particular convention, the quantity and kind of succor 
to be furnished, and the time and manner of its being 
brought into action, as well as the advantages which 
are to be its compensation. 


If the United States should think fit to attempt the 
reduction of the British power, remaining in the nor- 
thern parts of America, or the islands of Bermudas, 
those countries or islands, in case of success, shall be 
confederated with or dependant upon the said United 


The Most Christian King renounces forever the pos- 
session of the islands of Bermudas, as well as of any 
part of the continent of North America, which before 
the treaty of Paris in 1763, or in virtue of that treaty, 
were acknowledged to belong to the Crown of Great 
Britain, or to the United States, heretofore called 
British Colonies, or which are at this time, or have 
lately been under the power of the King and Crown of 
Great Britain. 

If His Most Christian Majesty shall think proper to 


attack any of the islands situated in the Gulph of 
Mexico, or near that Gulph, which are at present under 
the power of Great Britain, all the said isles, in case 
of success, shall appertain to the Crown of France. 


Neither of the two parties shall conclude either truce 
or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent 
of the other first obtained; and they mutually engage 
not to lay down their arms until the independence of the 
United States shall have been formally or tacitly as- 
sured by the treaty or treaties that shall terminate the 


The contracting parties declare, that being resolved 
to fulfil each on its own part the clauses and conditions 
of the present treaty of alliance, according to its own 
power and circumstances, there shall be no after claim 
of compensation on one side or the other, whatever may 
be the event of the war. 


The Most Christian King and the United States 
agree to invite or admit other powers who may have 
received injuries from England, to make common cause 
with them, and to accede to the present alliance, under 
such conditions as shall be freely agreed to and settled 
between all the parties. 


The two parties guarantee mutually from the pres- 
ent time and forever against all other powers, to wit: 
The United States to His Most Christian Majesty, the 
present possessions of the Crown of France in America, 
as well as those which it may acquire by the future 


treaty of peace: And His Most Christian Majesty 
guarantees on his part to the United States their lib- 
erty, sovereignty and independence, absolute and un- 
limited, as well in matters of government as commerce, 
and also their possessions, and the additions or con- 
quests that their confederation may obtain during the 
war, from any of the dominions now, or heretofore pos- 
sessed by Great Britain in North America, conformable 
to the 5th and 6th articles above written, the whole as 
their possessions shall be fixed and assured to the said 
States, at the moment of the cessation of their present 
war with England. 


In order to fix more precisely the sense and applica- 
tion of the preceding article, the contracting parties de- 
clare, that in case of a rupture between France and 
England the reciprocal guarantee declared in the said 
article shall have its full force and effect the moment 
such war shall break out ; and if such rupture shall not 
take place, the mutual obligations of the said guarantee 
shall not commence until the moment of the cessation 
of the present war between the United States and Eng- 
land shall have ascertained their possessions. 


The present treaty shall be ratified on both sides, and 
the ratifications shall be exchanged in the space of six 
months, or sooner if possible. 

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries, to 
wit: On the part of the Most Christian King, Conrad 
Alexander Gerard, Royal Syndic of the city of Stras- 
bourgh, and Secretary of His Majesty's Council of 
State; and on the part of the United States, Benjamin 
Franklin, Deputy to the General Congress from the 
State of Pennsylvania, and President of the Convention 


of the same State, Silas Deane, heretofore Deputy from 
the State of Connecticut, and Arthur Lee, Councellor 
at Law, have signed the above articles both in the 
French and English languages, declaring, nevertheless, 
that the present treaty was originally composed and 
concluded in the French language, and they have here- 
unto affixed their seals. 

Done at Paris, this sixth day of February, one thou- 
sand seven hundred and seventy-eight. 

(Seal.) C. A. GERARD. 

(Seal.) B. FRANKLIN. 


(Seal.) ARTHUR LEE. 

Act Separate and Secret Reserving Right of King of 

Spain to Agree to the Foregoing Treaties, 

concluded February 6, 1778; ratified by the Continental 

Congress May 4, 1778, ratifications exchanges at 

Paris July 17, 1778. 

The most Christian King declared in consequence of 
the intimate union which subsists between him and the 
King of Spain, that in concluding with the United 
States of America this treaty of amity and commerce, 
and that of eventual and defensive alliance, his Majesty 
hath intended, and intends, to reserve expressly, as he 
reserves by this present separate and secret act, to his 
said Catholick Majesty the power of acceding to the 
said treatys, and to participate in their stipulations at 
such time as he shall judge proper. It being well un- 
derstood, nevertheless, that if any of the stipulations 
of the said treatys are not agreeable to the King of 
Spain, His Catholick Majesty may propose other con- 
ditions analogous to the principal aim of the alliance 


and conformable to the rules of equality, reciprocity 
and friendship. 

The Deputies of the United States, in the name of 
their constituents, accept the present declaration in 
its full extent, and the Deputy of the said States who 
is fully impowered to treat with Spain promises to sign, 
on the first requisition of His Catholic Majesty, the act 
or acts necessary to communicate to him the stipula- 
tions of the treaties above written ; and the said Deputy 
shall endeavor, in good faith, the adjustment of the 
points in which the King of Spain may propose any 
alteration conformable to the principles of equality, 
reciprocity, and the most sincere and perfect amity, he, 
the said Deputy, not doubting but that the person or 
persons impower'd by His Catholic Majesty to treat 
with the United States will do the same with regard to 
any alterations of the same kind that may be thought 
necessary by the said Plenipotentiary of the United 
States. * 

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have 
signed the present separate and secret article, and af- 
fixed to the same their seals. 

Done at Paris this sixth day of February, one thou- 
sand seven hundred and seventy-eight. 

(Seal.) C. A. GERARD. 

(Seal.) B. FRANKLIN. 


(Seal.) ARTHUR LEE. 

Deputy, Plenipotentiary for France and Spain. 





7 January 1777. 

The arrival of Mr. Franklin in France has given rise 
to reflections which may perhaps, present some new ideas 
upon the great and important affairs of America. 

The present state of those affairs and the role which 
Mr. Franklin plays therein does not allow an observant 
person to doubt that this American is deputed to come 
with certain propositions to France in the critical po- 
sition in which his country finds herself of having to 
achieve absolute independence or of falling again under 
the rule of England, and even of seeing her position ag- 
gravated, if the fortune of war is against her. 

If we turn our attention more closely to the true in- 
terests of America, of France and of England with re- 
gard to this important object, we easily recognize that, 
in the actual position of things, America has proposi- 
tions so absolute, so urgent, to make to France, that it 
is as difficult for her not to come to a decision, as it is 
essential and pressing for her to determine wisely. 

It is not for us, (the writer) supposing that such 
propositions existed, to go so far as to pronounce upon 
what it is expedient to do. That point exceeds our 
province. But one may be justified, as a good subject 
of the King, and without overstepping the zeal with 
which one is animated for his service in considering 
what may be the consequences of the course for or 
against, to be taken in the circumstances. 

One may suppose then that America has at the pres- 
ent time a twofold plan of action demanding equal 

no. 619. Though the work of a "private citizen," this 
memoir was probably prepared for the Council, Doniol II. 118. 


urgency: either to obtain with the aid of France and 
Spain, her complete independence or to extort an ac- 
knowledgment of it from England itself. 

The argument which the United Colonies of North 
America may use to France is to say to her: "Assist 
us to win our complete liberty and you will derive there- 
from honour and advantage by the Treaty Offensive and 
Defensive and that of Commerce which we offer you, 
or leave us to treat with England at your peril and risk 
if it is achieved." 

On the other hand the proposition which America, to 
arrive equally at the goal of her independence, may 
make to England is the following: 

"We have been fighting," she may say, "for two years 
past for a rightful liberty. The probabilities for and 
against, so to speak, are at the present time equal; the 
issue will become a certainty if we join with France 
and Spain. Grant us generously what we are in a po- 
sition to wrest from you, and here is the price we put 
upon the just independence which we desire. A 
treaty, as glorious for the mother country as for her 
colony, being signed, take twenty, thirty thousand 
men of our troops which are all ready, you have your 
vessels on our coasts, go possess yourselves therewith of 
St. Domingo, Martinique, Guadaloupe, drive the French 
entirely out of America and you will have in the new 
possessions which you acquire an ample equivalent for 
what you cede to us; an equivalent more productive, 
better suited to the nature of your territories, and one 
henceforward impregnable in your hands because we 
will be its guardians, its defenders, as well as the nurses 
of its prosperity, and, being already your brothers by 
blood and becoming bound to you by a memorable treaty 
we shall thus be doubly your allies and much more sure 
allies than if we remained subordinate and discontented 



If it were permitted to a private citizen to extend his 
reflections further upon the question of the justice of 
a war with England in the present conjuncture it might 
be observed that the war which we may have with that 
crown, as things stand, would not exactly possess the 
characteristics of which we have been speaking. It 
would indeed be rather a war of self-defense, if the 
propositions of which we have spoken above existed. 
Indeed, France having the safety of her own possessions 
compromised has thenceforth only to choose between the 
course of furnishing America with the aid she asks for 
or of seeing an oppressed colony or (and) an ambitious 
mother country treating on their own account and of 
taking upon herself the consequence of their agreement. 
If that danger has any foundation in fact, then it is 
a league prejudicial to her own repose, prejudicial to 
her possessions, which she breaks. It is a peril which 
she provides against and averts, and that peril well 
defined, which politically speaking is most certain, is 
perhaps a sufficient reason, of justice as much as of 
state, to warrant a determination of that kind. 

Basing our conclusion upon all these reflections as 
well as upon justice, it remains for us to give our idea 
of the extent and consequences of the revolution which 
is preparing, the main object of this writing. 

If it is accomplished by our means, it ought while 
lowering England to raise France in a corresponding 
degree and restore her to her rank. It may even offer 
the most fortunate opportunities for making a sure 
work, seeing that England, with her resources already 
wasted, is almost unguarded at home, and that she pre- 
sents there and elsewhere opportunities to strike a 
nearly certain and absolutely decisive blow. Lastly 
the present conjuncture, a conjuncture which the revo- 


lutions of time so rarely offer, is such that it may have 
an influence upon the state of France and upon that of 
Europe, always to the advantage of this kingdom, which 
the longest ages will not be able to disturb. 

If America is severed from England with our aid, 
thenceforward all the possessions of that country in 
that part of the world fall, and ours establish them- 
selves there upon the firmest foundations. Since the 
two great sources of England's commerce, the sole basis 
of her fortune, are in America and in Asia, one of the 
great sinews of that power is thenceforth cut; and if 
we hasten promptly and effectually to provide for the 
safety of the Isle of France (a post which can alone 
preserve India entire and give security to our future 
projects there) we shall at leisure and at opportunity 
provide suitably against the excessive power which 
England is tending to usurp there : in which we shall be 
the more assisted as the finances of England must needs 
be thrown completely out of gear by the ill-success of 
this war; and her public wealth being nothing but an 
exaggerated and almost artificial credit, she ought to 
be doubly overthrown both by the expenses of this war 
and by the loss of her possessions, the only pledge for 
the truly imaginary credit which has grown up in that 
nation, and which her constitution, aided by successes, 
has much favoured. 

The consequences of this revolution ought, as we 
think, to be still more widespread. Such an event in 
our opinion, changes forthwith, to the advantage of 
France, the political state of Europe and even repairs 
the bad effects of the fatal war of Poland which has 
destroyed the balance of the Germanic body established 
with so much difficulty by a war of forty years and the 
celebrated treaty of Westphalia. 

England, who weighed too heavily in the contrary 
balance which produced this change, reduced to her 


natural state, could no longer be of any assistance to 
Russia and to the King of Prussia, who as yet have 
only a forced extension of power the unconsolidated 
fortune of which depends much on the rare qualities of 
the rulers, who, in spite of their success, have only suc- 
ceeded in disturbing the equilibrium of Germany with- 
out having given it another fixed constitution, since 
there are two rival monarchies seeking to establish 
themselves upon the ruin of that aristocracy and a 
third monarchy, Russia, strives to force a way into it, 
a state of things which substitutes a conflict or a new 
war for the old condition of things, the decaying con- 
dition of the Germanic body. 

It is true that the new house of Austria, by this 
revolution regains the preponderance in Germany 
which we had taken away and that naturally she also 
ought to find in the weakening of England means of in- 
creasing her power. But in what respect may France 
find her interests injured thereby? In their common 
elevation the point is so strongly in her favour that 
she has nothing to wish for in that respect. If the 
maritime power of England falls, France naturally and 
invincibly takes her place whether by the advancement 
of her distant acquisitions or by the favourable position 
of her territories. Her pre-eminence in this respect, 
too, will be so constant, so certain; besides, the new 
kind of power which she will acquire is in itself so im- 
portant, so decisive, considering the present customs 
of Europe, that it is much rather to be feared this ex- 
cessive pre-eminence may be noticed and may excite 
resistance. Consequently, looking at this double in- 
crease, the desire of the houses of Bourbon and Austria 
for union would be better fulfilled by these circum- 
stances than by any others which could ever arise, for, 
lastly, firm treaties are not formed nor maintained ex- 
cept by mutual advantages. In short nothing can hap- 


pen more essential for France, in her real and in her 
relative power, than the absolute consummation of this 
revolution. By her position alone she inherits all that 
England loses; and without even going so far as to 
pluck them, she sees drop from the hands of her rival 
the chief branches of that rival's fortune ; all this debris 
comes of itself to increase her own, and time alone as- 
sures her without any effort, a two-fold power, on sea 
and on land, which she has never been able to unite and 
which strengthening each other will put her above 

Taking now a collective view of this statement of 
facts all the importance of the resolution which France 
is called upon to make presents itself to the mind. The 
question is, according to the laws of nature, as to the 
liberty of one of the four quarters of the world held 
captive by one of the European powers : in two words, it 
is a question of giving America to the whole world; 
politically, it is a question of putting right the state of 
Europe and chiefly that of France. Finally, if it is 
permissible in a political memoir to consider the sub- 
ject philosophically, one can see with some interest a 
people forming itself into a national body, creating 
itself a civil state embodying a mixture of the manners 
of a state of nature and of the wisdom of an age most 
fruitful of knowledge, a people which is about to give 
laws to itself, having before its eyes the laws of all 
civilized peoples. This is not a collection of savages 
gradually emerging from barbarism, and which rather 
receives than gives to itself the constitution which cir- 
cumstances impose upon it. This is a people already' 
civilized by its understanding and which, after having 
acquired its political independence, is about to choose 
for itself the legislation that is to establish its destiny 
for all time. The history of the world perhaps shows 
no spectacle more interesting, and the political stage 


has never perhaps presented an event the consequences 
of which are more important and more widespread in the 
general condition of this globe. 

Summarizing what has been said in this memoir, the 
result is that finance must dictate the course to take in 
the present state of things always after justice shall 
have spoken. The impression with which one is filled in 
writing this is such that it cannot too often be repeated 
that it is a question of taking from England, our nat- 
ural and actual enemy, more than half her power, and 
that for ever, and of giving it to France; or of seeing 
England make an agreement which will give her more 
strength and cover her with glory, will change into 
good fortune an occasion of disaster, and all that at 
our expense; and the course to be taken ought to be 
taken actively and without delay or it is very possible 
that the other part of the dilemma just spoken of may 
be accomplished before our eyes. 

The writer here closes the reflections which the ful- 
ness of his zeal for the King's service may render 



13 January 1778. 

The quarrel which exists between England and the 
Colonies of North America is as important to France 
as to Great Britain, and its issue will have equal in- 

1 Smss. no. 1835. Though unsigned this document contains ex- 
pressions from earlier papers from Vergennes' pen. Cf. for 
example, Doniol, II. 144 and 733 ff. Besides the points for which 
it is cited in the text, the memoir is interesting as an omnium 
gatherum of all the arguments for French intervention. 


fluence on the reputation and power of those two 
Crowns. It is, therefore, essential that France should 
decide upon and fix the policy it is advisable she should 
adopt in such a conjuncture. 

The Americans have been struggling for the last 
three years against the efforts of Great Britain, and 
they have up to the present maintained a sort of superi- 
ority; but the war which they wage fatigues and ex- 
hausts them, and must necessarily weary the people 
and awaken in them a desire for repose. 

England, for her part, crushed by the expenditure 
occasioned by this same war, and convinced of the im- 
possibility of reducing the Colonies, is occupied with 
the means of re-establishing peace. With this view she 
is taking the most urgent and animated steps with the 
Deputies from Congress, and it is natural that the 
United States should at last decide to listen to their 

In this state of affairs it is desirable to examine what 
course it is proper for France to take. 

There exist two courses only, that of abandoning 
the Colonies, and that of supporting them. 

If we abandon them, England will take advantage of 
it by making a reconciliation, and in that case she will 
either preserve her supremacy wholly or partially, or 
she will gain an ally. Now it is known that she is dis- 
posed to sacrifice that supremacy 'and to propose simply 
a sort of family compact, that is to say, a league 
against the House of Bourbon. 

The result of this will be that the Americans will be- 
come our perpetual enemies, and we must expect to see 
them turn all their efforts against our possessions, and 
against those of Spain. This is all the more probable 
as the Colonies, require a direct trade with the sugar 
islands. England will offer them that of our islands 
after having conquered them, which will be easy for her. 


Thus the coalition of the English and the Americans 
will draw after it our expulsion, and probably that of 
the Spaniards, from the whole of America ; it will limit 
our shipping and our commerce to the European seas 
only, and even this trade will be at the mercy of English 
insolence and greed. 

It would be a mistake to suppose that the United 
States will not lend themselves to the proposals of the 
Court of St. James's. Those States took up arms only 
in order to establish and defend their independence and 
the freedom of their commerce; if, therefore, England 
offers them both, what reason will they have for refus- 
ing? Their treaty with that Power will give them more 
safety than the engagements which they might make 
with other Powers, or than all the guarantees which we 
might offer them. Indeed, what opinion can they have 
of our means, and even of our good-will, since we have 
not dared to co-operate in securing an independence of 
which we would afterwards propose the empty guaran- 
tee? Their surest guarantee will be in the community 
of interests and views which will be established between 
them and their former mother-country ; we have nothing 
to offer which can counterbalance that. 

Such will be the effects of the independence of the 
United States of America, if it is established without 
our concurrence. 

It follows from this that the glory, the dignity and 
the essential interest of France demand that she should 
stretch out her hand to those States, and that their 
independence should be her work. 

The advantages which will result are innumerable ; we 
shall humiliate our natural enemy, a perfidious enemy 
who never knows how to respect either treaties or the 
right of nations; we shall divert to our profit one of 
the principal sources of her opulence; we shall shake 
her power, and reduce her to her real value; we shall 


extend our commerce, our shipping, our fisheries; we 
shall ensure the possession of our islands, and finally, 
we shall re-establish our reputation, and shall resume 
amongst the Powers of Europe the place which belongs 
to us. There would be no end if we wished to detail all 
these points ; it is sufficient to indicate them in order to 
make their importance felt. 

In presupposing that the independence of the Ameri- 
cans is to be the work of France, it is necessary to 
examine what line of conduct it is desirable for us to 
observe in order to attain that end ; there is but one, 
to assist the Colonies. 

But in order to determine the sort of assistance to be 
given, it is essential not to deviate from the two follow- 
ing truths: 1st, that whatever sort of assistance we 
give the Americans, it will be equivalent to a declara- 
tion of war against Great Britain: 2nd that when war 
is inevitable, it is better to be beforehand with one's 
enemy than to be anticipated by him. 

Starting with these two principles, it appears that 
France cannot be too quick in making with the Ameri- 
cans a treaty of which recognised independence will be 
the basis, and that she should take her measures for 
acting before England can anticipate her. 

It is all the more urgent to hasten the arrangements 
to be made with the Americans, as the Deputies are 
hard pressed by emissaries of the English Ministry, and 
as, if we are not the first to bind them, they will give 
the Court of London a foundation for proposing a 
plan of reconciliation at the re-assembly of Parliament, 
which will take place on the 20th instant, and then all 
will be over with us, and it will only remain for us to 
prepare to undertake war against the English and 
against the insurgents, whereas we could and ought to 
have begun it in concert with the latter. 


In all that has just been said, the co-operation of 
Spain has been presupposed. 

But in the event of that Power not adopting the 
principles and plan of France, or of her judging the 
moment of putting it into execution not yet arrived, 
what course will France, thus isolated, have to follow? 

The independence of the Colonies is so important a 
matter for France, that no other should weaken it, and 
France must do her utmost to establish it, even if it 
should cost her some sacrifices ; I mean that France 
must undertake the war for the maintenance of Ameri- 
can independence, even if that war should be in other 
respects disadvantageous. In order to be convinced of 
this truth, it is only necessary to picture to ourselves 
what England will be, when she no longer has America. 

Thus France must espouse the American cause, and 
use for that purpose all her power, even if Spain should 
refuse to join her. From this one of two things will 
happen; either that Power will still remain neutral, or 
she will decide to join France. In the first case, al- 
though she will be passive, she will nevertheless favour 
our operations, because she will be armed, and England 
will see her constantly placed behind us, and ready, if 
need be, to assist us : but in order to maintain this opin- 
ion, we must also maintain that of a good understanding 
between the two Courts. The second case has no need 
of development. 

But Spain is awaiting a rich fleet from Vera Cruz, 
and that fleet will not arrive until about next spring. 
Its arrival must unquestionably be ensured, and that 
may be done in two ways ; 1st by prolonging the period 
of our operations, or else, 2nd, by sending a squadron to 
meet the fleet. Spain has vessels at Cadiz and Ferrol; 
they are armed and ready to put to sea. A cruise might 
be given as a pretext in order to mask their real 


If the King adopts the course of going forward with- 
out the participation of Spain, he will take away from 
that Power all just reason for complaint, by stipulating 
for her eventually all the advantages which she would 
have claimed, had she been a contracting party. These 
advantages will be the same as those which His Majesty 
will ask for himself. 



While the ambassador of England put the King's 
patience to the strongest proofs ... an event came 
to pass in America which essentially changed the face 
of things in that quarter of the world. This event was 
the defeat of the army under General Burgoyne. The 
news of this unexpected disaster . . . astonished the 
British ministers, and must have the more sensibly af- 
fected them, as it overthrew the plan they had laid 
for the reduction of the Colonies. We shall be con- 
vinced of this truth by reading the speeches occasioned 
by it in Parliament. The first result of the tumultuous 
debates of both Houses was the naming of commissioners 
of peace, to carry to America conciliatory bills; and 

1 The original (though quite different) form of this document 
is to be found in Beaumarchais' Oeuvres completes (Paris, 1835), 
530-42. The present document was published in Paris in 1779 
over Beaumarchais' name, but the edition of 1780, which is un- 
changed, is anonymous, though it is attributed in the catalogue of 
the Biblioteque Nationale to J. M. Gerard de Rayneval, Vergen- 
nes' Secretary. The English- American translation (Philadelphia 
and London, 1780), from which the above extracts are made, is 
also anonymous. There are four copies of this translation in the 
Pennsylvania Historical Society's library at Philadelphia, and one 
of the French edition of 1779. 


that of the secret deliberations of the council at St. 
James' was to make advances and to sound the American 
commissioners residing at Paris, and to propose to them 
peace and a coalition against the Crown of France. 

This last proposition was the consequence of the im- 
putations which the ministry of London had incessantly 
made against that of Versailles : They have affected to 
consider France as the cause, the support, in a word 
as the author, of the revolution of which America pre- 
sented them a view; and this opinion would naturally 
inspire them with the desire of vengeance. . . . This 
prospect was so much the more proper to console, and 
even to dazzle the British ministers, as it perfectly cor- 
responded with their most dear and most constant wish, 
a wish which for a long time had been the very essence 
of British policy, that of humbling France ; and as the 
presumptuous confidence of that nation must have still 
grown greater, when they beheld the extraordinary 
armaments they had got ready, with a despatch which 
surprised all Europe [the armaments referred to are 
stated to be those prepared in January, 1777]. 

The British ministry, led astray by this brilliant 
phantom, delayed not putting in motion all the secret 
springs by means of which they would be able to realize 
it. Emissaries came one after another and watched the 
American commissioners : Their discourse to every one 
of them was, that they should no longer continue the 
dupes of France, but must unite with the court of Lon- 
don, and fall upon that power, etc. 

The court of London denies the facts and represents 
them as a supposition destitute of truth and even of 
probability, and calls upon France to produce the 
proof of it. But can a subterfuge like this possibly 
impose on any one? Who will suspect the British min- 
istry to have carried their want of address or impru- 
dence so far as to leave direct marks of a darksome 


manouvre, and of not having on the other hand, taken 
the most effectual measures that, in case of discovery, 
it might not be imputed to them ! . . . True it is, that 
according to the British ministry, the King of Great 
Britain could not be suspected of not bemg offered 
peace to his subjects, after a long and hard contest, but 
with design of entering into a new war against a re- 
spectable power; [this is a mistranslation of the 
French: the second not and the but should be omitted]. 
But some very plain reflections will make it clear how 
illusory this affected language is, and how little it de- 
serves belief. 

If the court of London . . . either sincerely, or in 
order to impose upon the English nation or even on its 
king . . . has experienced unpardonable injuries from 
France, if it has reason for reproaching her with the de- 
fection of the Colonies, they must consider her dignity 
and most essential interests as wounded, and from that 
time must feel the most ardent desire, not only of tak- 
ing vengeance, but also of recovering from France what 
the crown of England lost in America. In consequence 
of this plan, it was natural for the British ministry, 
unable to subdue her Colonies, to seek to be reconciled 
to them and to engage them to espouse her resentment : 
They might so much the more flatter themselves that 
they should succeed herein as the proceedings of France 
with regard to American privateers . . . and especially 
the dislike the king had at .all times manifested to any 
engagement with the Congress, must have given disgust 
and dissatisfaction to their deputies, and induce them, 
notwithstanding (their well known aversion, to seek 
even in England the safety of their country when they 
failed to find it in France. . . . 

In this situation ought it not to be supposed that, the 
moment the British ministry perceived the necessity of 
yielding to the efforts of the Colonies, they perceived the 


project and the hope of punishing France for the 
wrongs they had imputed to her? Such have, indeed, 
been the intention and conduct of the ministers of the 
king of Great Britain. We have already affirmed, in 
the Expose de Motifs and we repeat it here, with that 
assurance which nothing but truth can give; and the 
King dares flatter himself that the opinion which all 
Europe has of his rectitude and probity will have 
more weight than a denial merely hazarded and which 
they have not even had the address to render probable. 

Moreover, although the king had not had certain 
proof of the hostile views of the court of London, it 
would 'have been sufficient for him to have had probable 
grounds to suspect that they existed; now, what must 
His Majesty have thought of the sight of the immense 
and hasty warlike preparations of the court of London ! 
her arbitrary proceedings, her denials of justice, her 
arrogant pretensions! What must he have allowed to 
the last words of the idol and oracle of the British 
nation, Lord Chatham, who dragged himself to Parlia- 
ment, there to expire exclaiming, Peace with America, 
and war with the House of Bourbon! The court of 
London herself had justified the suspicion and fore- 
sight of the king, by the hostile orders sent to India 
before the declaration of the Marquis de Noailles, and 
even before the signing of the Treaty of February 
6, 1778. . . . 

The King well informed of the plan of the court of 
London and of the preparations which were the conse- 
quence of it, perceived that no more time was to be 
lost if he would prevent the designs of his enemies : His 
Majesty determined, therefore, to take into consider- 
ation, at length, the overtures of the Congress [pp. 


Whilst the British ambassador renewed without in- 
termission complaints unjust in their object . . . the 
British ministry, convinced that notwithstanding their 
formidable armaments any subjugation whatever of the 
Colonies was in future impossible, proposed to Parlia- 
ment the means of conciliation ; they endeavored at the 
same time to open a secret negotiation with the com- 
missioners of Congress at Paris; they were disposed to 
yield everything, even independence in fact, provided 
they could retain a nominal dependence. But war 
against France was to be the price of so great a sacri- 
fice. The king apprised on the one side of the offers 
and hostile views of the court of London, and on the 
other side of the unshaken resolution of Congress not 
to suffer the least trace of its former subjection to re- 
main: The king, I say, did not hesitate to take a 
part. . . . 

To deceive the other nations with regard to the real 
motives which have directed the conduct of the king, 
the British ministry maintain that he entered into 
treaty with the Americans, not because he feared the 
secret views of Great Britain, but because he foresaw 
that the Americans defeated, discouraged without sup- 
port and without resources, were about to return to 
their mother-country. ... It was without doubt for 
the sake of this assertion that the British ministry 
have thought it beneath the dignity of their sovereign 
to search for the period at which France formed con- 
nections with the United States. . . . The king is will- 
ing to spare the British ministry a task so disagreeable 
and so embarrassing, by observing for them that the 
conversations which led to the Treaties of the 6th of 
February, 1778, were considerably posterior to the 
capitulation of General Burgoyne. Now it is notorious 
that this event elevated the courage and the hopes of 
the Americans as much as it dejected the British na- 


tion, and principally the court of London. If then the 
king has listened to the propositions of Congress after 
this period so disastrous to the British, it has not been, 
and could not have been for any other reason, but be- 
cause the thought with the United States that their in- 
dependence was thenceforward irrevocable; England 
herself thought as the Americans did" [93-6]. 



agreed upon, by and between Richard Oswald, Esquire, 
The Commissioner of His Britannic Majesty, for Treat- 
ing of Peace with the Commissioners of the United 
States of America, in behalf of His Said Majesty on the 
One Part, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John 
Jay, and Henry Laurens, Four of the Commissioners of 
the Said United States for Treating of Peace with the 
Commissioners of His Said Majesty, on Their Behalf, on 
the Other Part. To be Inserted in, and to Constitute 
the Treaty of Peace Proposed to be Concluded Between 
the Crown of Great Britain and the Said United States ; 
but which Treaty is not to be Concluded until Terms of 
a Peace Shall Be Agreed Upon Between Great Britain 
and France, and His Britannic Majesty Shall Be Ready 
to Conclude Such Treaty Accordingly. 
Concluded November 30, 1782. Proclamation ordered 
by the Continental Congress April 11, 1783. 


I. Independence acknowledged. 
II. Boundaries. 

III. Fishery rights. 

IV. Recovery of Debts. 

V. Restitution of estates. 
VI. Confiscations and prosecutions to cease. 
VII. Withdrawal of British armies, 
from Malloy. 


VIII. Navigation of the Mississippi River. 

IX. Restoration of territory. 
Separate Article. Boundary of West Florida. 

Whereas reciprocal advantages and mutual conven- 
ience are found by experience to form the only perma- 
nent foundation of peace and friendship between States, 
it is agreed to form the articles of the proposed treaty 
on such principles of liberal equity and reciprocity, as 
that partial advantages (those seeds of discord) being 
excluded, such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse 
between the two countries may be established as to 
promise and secure to both perpetual peace and 


His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United 
States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusett's Bay, 
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, 
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Mary- 
land, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and 
Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent States ; 
that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his 
heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the Gov- 
ernment, propriety and territorial rights of the same, 
and every part thereof; and that all disputes which 
might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries 
of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby 
agreed and declared that the following are and shall be 
their boundaries, viz. : 


From the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that 
angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from 
the source of St. Croix River to the Highlands; along 
the Highlands which divide those rivers that empty 
themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which 


fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost 
head of Connecticut River; thence down along the mid- 
dle of that river to the 45th degree of north latitude; 
from thence, by a line due west on said latitude until it 
strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy; thence along 
the middle of said river into Lake Ontario, through the 
middle of said lake until it strikes the communication 
by water between the lake and Lake Erie; thence 
along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, 
through the middle of said lake untill it arrives at the 
water communication between that lake and Lake 
Huron ; thence along the middle of said water communi- 
cation into the Lake Huron; thence through the mid- 
dle of said lake to the water communication between 
that lake and Lake Superior; thence through Lake Su- 
perior northward to the isles Royal and Phelippeaux, 
to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said 
Long Lake, and the water communication between it 
and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the 
Woods ; thence through the said lake to the most north- 
western point thereof, and from thence on a due west 
course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be 
drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi 
untill it shall intersect the northermost part of the 
31st degree of north latitude. South, by a line to be 
drawn due east from the determination of the line last 
mentioned, in the latitude of 31 degrees north of the 
equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or 
Catahouche; thence along the middle thereof to its 
junction with the Flint River; then strait to the head 
of St. Mary's River; and thence down along the mid- 
dle of St. Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean. East, 
by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river St. 
Croix, from its mouth in the bay of Fundy to its source, 
and from its source directly north to the aforesaid 
highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the At- 


lantic Ocean, from those which fall into the river St. 
Laurence; .comprehending all islands within twenty 
leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, 
and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the 
points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova 
Scotia on the one part, and East Florida on the other, 
shall respectively touch the bay of Fundy and the 
Atlantic Ocean; excepting such islands as now are, or 
heretofore have been, within the limits of the said 
province of Nova Scotia. 


It is agreed that the people of the United States shall 
continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of 
every kind on the Grand Bank, and on all the other 
banks of Newfoundland ; also in the Gulph of St. Law- 
rence, and at all other places in the sea, where the in- 
habitants of both countries used at any time hereto- 
fore to fish ; and also that the inhabitants of the United 
States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on 
such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British 
fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on 
that island;) and also on the coasts, bays and creeks of 
aH othier of his Britannic Majesty's dominions in 
America; and that the American fishermen shall have 
liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled 
bays, harbours and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen 
Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain 
unsettled; but as soon as the same or either of them 
shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fisher- 
men to dry or cure fish at such settlement, without a 
previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabi- 
tants, proprietors or possessors of the ground. 


It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet 
with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full 


value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore 


It is agreed that the Congress shall earnestly recom- 
mend it to the legislatures of the respective States to 
provide for the restitution of all estates, rights and 
properties which have been confiscated, belonging to 
real British subjects, and also of the estates, rights and 
properties of persons resident in districts in the pos- 
session of His Majesty's arms, and who have not borne 
arms against the said United States : And that per- 
sons of any other description shall have free liberty to 
go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United 
States, and therein to remain twelve months unmolested 
in their endeavours to obtain the restitution of such of 
their estates, rights and properties as may have been 
confiscated : And that Congress shall also earnestly 
recommend to the several States a reconsideration and 
revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so 
as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent, 
not only with justice and equity, but with the spirit of 
conciliation which, on the return of the blessings of 
peace, should universally prevail: And that Congress 
shall also earnestly recommend to the several States 
that the estates, rights and properties of such last- 
mentioned persons shall be restored to them, they re- 
funding to any persons who may be now in possession 
the bona fide price (where any has been given) which 
such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the 
said lands, rights and properties since the confiscation. 
And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest 
in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settle- 
ments or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impedi- 
ments in the prosecution of their just rights. 



That there shall be no future confiscations made, 
nor any prosecutions commenced against any persons 
for or by reason of the part which he or they may have 
taken in the present war, and that no person shall, on 
that account, suffer any future loss or damage, either 
in his person, liberty or property; and that those who 
may be in confinement on such charges, at the time of 
the ratification of the treaty in America, shall be im- 
mediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so com- 
menced be discontinued. 


There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between 
His Britannic Majesty and the said States, and be- 
tween the subjects of the one and the citizens of the 
other, wherefore all hostilities, both by sea and land, 
shall then immediately cease: All prisoners, on both 
sides, shall be set at liberty; and His Britannic Majesty 
shall, with all convenient speed, and without causing 
any destruction, or carrying away any negroes or other 
property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his 
armies, garrisons and fleets from the said United States, 
and from every port, place and harbour within the 
same, leaving in all fortifications the American artillery 
that may be therein; and shall also order and cause all 
archives, records, deeds and papers belonging to any 
of the said States or their citizens, which in the course 
of the war may have fallen into the hands of his offi- 
cers to whom they belong. 


The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its 
source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open 
to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the 
United States. 



In case it should so happen that any place or terri- 
tory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States 
should be conquered by the arms of either from the 
other, before the arrival of these articles in America, 
it is agreed that the same shall be restored without diffi- 
culty and without requiring any compensation. 

Done at Paris the thirtieth day of November, in the 
year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two. 

(Seal.) JOHN ADAMS. 

(Seal.) B. FRANKLIN. 

(Seal.) JOHN JAY. 



Sec'y to the British Commission. 

Sec'y to the American Commission. 


It is hereby understood and agreed that in case 
Great Britain, at the conclusion of the present war, 
shall recover, or be put in possession of West Florida, 
the line of north boundary between the said province 
and the United States shall be a line drawn from the 
mouth of the river Yassous, where it unites with the 
Mississippi, due east, to the river Apalachicola. 

Done at Paris the thirtieth day of November, in the 
year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two. 

(Seal.) JOHN ADAMS. 

(Seal.) B. FRANKLIN. 

(Seal.) JOHN JAY. 



Sec'y to the British Commission. 

Sec'y to the American Commission. 


Adams, John: Suggests French 
intervention, 52-3 fn.; op- 
posed to a military connec- 
tion with France, ib.; prophe- 
sies American greatness, 218; 
appointed envoy to negotiate 
peace, (Oct. 4, 1779), 261; 
wishes to communicate Ihis 
powers to treat to the Eng- 
lish government, 273-5; de- 
fends the "40 to 1" act, 275- 
6; endeavors to demonstrate 
France's indebtedness to the 
United States, ib.; thinks 
France should aid America 
more positively, 276-7; is 
snubbed by Vergennes and 
goes to Holland, 278; Con- 
gress asked to curb, 295, 299 ; 
superseded by a commission, 
301; participation of, in the 
peace negotiations, 340, 345 
-6; signs a declaration (Jan. 
20, 1783) explaining the Pro- 
visional Articles, 357. 

Almodovar: Spanish ambassa- 
dor at London, 182. 

Aranda, Count d': Spanish am- 
bassador at Paris and bitter 
enemy of England, 82; en- 
thusiastic for an American 
alliance, 97, 107-8, 179-80 fn.; 
not a real ambassador, 108; 
recognizes the extension of 
the United States to the Mis- 
sissippi, 241 fn. ; action of, in 
facilitating peace, 356-7. 

Argenson, Marquis d': Diplo- 
matic policy of, 26-7. 

Austria: Value of alliance 

with, to France, 39, 51, 59. 

Balance of Power, Doctrine of: 
Connected with the balance 
of trade idea, 15-6, 33-4; logic 
of connected with French 
policy in the Revolution, 17- 
22; stated by Vergennes as 
an argument for French in- 
tervention in America, 86-9, 
101, 137 ff.; to be applied to 
North America, 21-2, 176, 184. 

Bancroft: An agent of the 
American commissioners, 127 
and fn. 

Bancroft the Historian: Ex- 
planation of French interven- 
tion in the Revolution, 2. 

Bavarian Succession, War of: 
Cause and settlement of, 169- 

Beaumarchais: Alarmist re- 
port on situation in England 
(1775), 65; proselytes the 
king in behalf of secret aid, 
72-3; his La Paix ou la Guer- 
re, 79; activities as Hortalez 
et cie, ib.; alarmism after 
Saratoga, 121 fn., 129-30; 
memoir of, urging immediate 
American recognition (Jan., 
1778), 155 footnote; author 
of the original form of the 
Observations sur le Mdmoire, 
etc., 145 and appendix IV; 
charges Arthur Lee with 
treachery to France, 166 fn.; 
controversy over claims of, 
207-8; witty comment of, on 
Spain's entry into the war, 
216 fn. 




Belligerency: A status un- 
known to the Law of Nations 
in 1776, 81 and fn. 

Berkeley, Bishop: Predicts 
greatness of America, 217 fn. 

Bernis, Cardinal: Minister of 
Foreign Affairs (1756), 32. 

Bonvouloir: Mission of, to 
America (1775), 73-4; re- 
ports favorably on American 
prospects (Mar., 1776), ib. 

Boston: Siege of, impresses 
French opinion, 68. 

Broglie, Count de: His Con- 
jectures raisonne'es, 46 ff. ; 
plan for invasion of England 
preserved at request of Ver- 
gennes, 61-2; plans to become 
temporary "Statholder" of 
the United States, 90-2 ; mem- 
oir on England's enfeeble- 
ment (Jan., 1778), 154-5 fn. 

Burgoyne: British general 
captures Ticonderoga, 117; 
surrenders at Saratoga, 120. 

Burke: Predicts French inter- 
vention in America, 52 fn.; 
assesses the cost to France of 
her intervention in America, 

Canada: Lost to France by 
the Treaty of Paris (1763), 
37; significance of English re- 
tention of, in preference to 
Guadaloupe and Martinique, 
19-20; not a French objective 
in the Revolution, 9-11, 70, 
74, 200-1 and fn.; French 
withdrawal from, assists 
French intervention, 51, 65, 
74; wish of France and Spain 
to leave, in the hands of Eng- 
land, 12 fn., Ill, 176, 201-4 
and fns.; Vergennes' idea of 
making a free state of, under 
French protection, 201-2 and 
fn. ; Washington opposes a 
French expedition into, 204. 

Carleton, Sir Guy: Authorized 

to negotiate peace in Ameri- 
ca, 330 fn. 

Carmichael: Memoir of, to 
Vergennes cited, 118 and fn. 

Cartography: Evidence of, on 
the Western Land question, 
222 fn. 

Caste jon, Marquis de: Member 
of the Spanish royal council, 
and opposed to American 
recognition, 109. 

Castries: Becomes secretary 
of state for the Marine, 285; 
opposes peace (1782), 357 fn. 

Catherine II: Assists in parti- 
tion of Poland, 45; forms the 
First League of Neutrals 
(1780), 172; joins with Jos- 
eph II in offering to mediate 
between Great Britain and 
her foes (1781), 286. 

Charles III, of Spain: A loyal 
Bourbon, 34; concern at 
French - American alliance, 
161-2; deep resentment at in- 
dependent course of France, 
176-8; character of, sketched 
by Florida Blanca, 176-7 fn.; 
pleased with the idea of med- 
iating between France and 
England, 184; urges upon 
Louis the acceptance of a 
qualified recognition by Eng- 
land of American independ- 
ence, 185-6; will not recognize 
American independence be- 
fore England, 195; disap- 
pointment of, at not obtaining 
Gibraltar, 356. 

Chatelet: Correspondence with 
Choiseul regarding American 
affairs, 42; joins Choiseul in 
opposing Vergennes' policy, 

Chatham : Attitude toward 
France and French view of, 
3, 35 fn. ; lament on Saratoga, 
18-9; rumors of prospective 
return to power, 64-5; in 



eclipse, 66; no likelihood of 
his being called to power 
after Saratoga, 124 fn.; 
rumors respecting, 130, 155; 
opposed to recognizing Amer- 
ican independence after Sara- 
toga, 133 fn.; also, after the 
announcement of the French- 
American treaty, 168 fn. 

Chaumont: A secret agent of 
the French Foreign Office, 
126, 129. 

Choiseul, Duke de: Succeeds 
Bernis (1758), 33; his Mer- 
cantilism, 33-4; obtains the 
second Family Compact, 35- 
6; cedes Louisiana to Spain, 
36; Memoir e of (1765), 39- 
40; considers intervening in 
England's dispute with her 
Colonies (1766-8), 40 ff.; 
sends Kalb to America, 43; 
disliked by Louis XVI, 54; 
attacks of, on Vergennes' 
foreign policy, 78, 287. 

Clark, George Rogers: Expe- 
dition of, against British 
posts in the Northwest, 269. 

Commissioners, The American: 
Agree to transcend their 
original instructions, 96-7 ; 
would like to involve France 
with England, 114; endeavor 
to force the French govern- 
ment's hand, 118; abandon 
these tactics after Ticonde- 
roga, 118-9 and fn.; prefer a 
coalition with France, 125 
fn.; not citable in support of 
Vergennes' alarmism after 
Saratoga, 143-4; negotiations 
with the Foreign Office, ch. 
VII; propose a treaty of 
amity and commerce, 149; 
state their terms, 152-4; fail 
in their effort to procure im- 
mediately effective guaranties 
from France, ib.; presented 
at court, 168. See "Deane," 
"Lee," and "Franklin." 

Congress, The Continental: 
Sends an agent to France, 
84; authorizes a treaty of 
amity and commerce with 
France, 96; enlarges its in- 
structions to the American 
commissioners, 97; effect of 
British gold on, feared by 
Vergennes, 163-4; declares 
against the idea of a separ- 
ate peace, 209; debates in, of 
the Western Land question, 
220 fn., 231-2 fn.; parties in, 
247-8 and fns.; relations of, 
with the French envoys, chs. 
XI-XIII; developes aggres- 
sive views respecting Ameri- 
can claims in the West and 
to the Newfoundland fisher- 
ies (1779), 256 ff.; adopts 
instructions of Aug. 14, 1779, 
260; instructions of, to Jay, 
respecting the navigation of 
the Mississippi, see "Jay." 
See further "Instructions of 
June 15, 1781" and "Provi- 
sional Articles." 

"Corsairs": The question of, 

Courier de I' Europe: Sensa- 
tionalism of, 132 and fn. 

Deane, Silas: First American 
agent to France, arrives in 
Paris, 84; approves Broglie's 
scheme to become "Stat- 
holder" of the United States, 
90; presents Vergennes a 
plan of alliance between 
France, Spain, and the 
United States (Mar. 1777), 
97; negotiations of, with the 
English spy, Wentworth, 127; 
famous controversy of, with 
Arthur Lee, 207-9; holds 
lands west of the Mountains 
to be at Congress' disposal, 
219; endeavors to raise money 
in France on the Western 
lands as security, 238-9 and 



Deslandes : Urges importance 
of naval power to France, 29- 

Diplomatic Revolution, The: 
motive for, 23; consummation 
of, 31-2. 

Dunkirk: Treaty provisions 
regarding, 38; stipulation of 
Convention of Aranjuez with 
reference to, 193-4; articles 
concerning, suppressed 
(1783), 361. 

Durand: Correspondence of, 
as ambassador at St. James' 
with Choiseul regarding 
American affairs, 41. 

England: Begins Seven Years' 
War without warning, 3, 73; 
offers France and Spain a 
guaranty of their American 
possessions (1776-7) 6-7, 115- 
6; re-assesses colonial empire 
in consequence of Seven 
Years' War, 19-20; colonies, 
commerce, and marine the 
basis of the power of, 18-21, 
29, 31, 41, 44, 48, 50, 87, 154- 
5; hereditary rival of France 
and enfeeblement of, sought 
by France, 18 ff., 40, 47-50, 
69-70, 86, 89, 101, 137, 139- 
40; overbearing naval policy 
of, 47, 51, 73, 102-3; plays a 
waiting game with Spain 
(1778), 181-2; rejects proffer 
of Spanish mediation (Mar., 
1779), 214-5; supposed to be 
enfeebled by the loss of 
America, 362-4 ; subordination 
of, to France resented, 365-6; 
causes of swift recuperation 
of, 367-8; recovery by, of 
American trade, 369-71 and 
fn.; rapid restoration of fleet 
of, 371 ; regains the pre- 
dominance in Holland, 374-5. 
Estaing, Count d': Sent with a 
fleet to North America, 169; 
address of, to French-Cana- 
dians (Oct., 1778), 209 fn. 

Family Compact (1761): For- 
mation and provisions of, 35- 
6; maintenance of, urged by 
Choiseul, 40; called by Ver- 
gennes "the corner-stone" of 
French policy, t 59; loyalty to, 
pledged by Florida Blanca, 
106; put in jeopardy by Ver- 
gennes' American policy, 135; 
appeal to, by France feared 
by Florida Blanca (1778), 
175; supplemented by the 
Convention of Aranjuez, ch. 

Favier: Associated with 

Broglie in the preparation of 
the Conjectures raisonnees, 
46; influence of his work, 

Fitzherbert: British peace ne- 
gotiator, 332 fn. 
Fleury, Cardinal: His Systems 
de Conservation and its great 
success, 23-5; defect of the 
Systeme, 28. 

Florida Blanca, Don Jos6 Mo- 
nino Oount de: Succeeds 
Grimaldi as prime-minister 
of Spain (1777), 105; char- 
acteristics of policy of, to- 
ward America, ch. V, passim; 
his idea of intervention, 112 
ff. ; opposes a pledge of finan- 
cial aid to the Americans, 
119; favors financial aid after 
Saratoga, but opposes an al- 
liance with the colonies, 157; 
extreme anger at intelligence 
of French-American negotia- 
tions, 158-60; calculates on 
leisurely negotiations between 
France and Spain, 160-1; de- 
clines French offer of naval 
protection for Mexican treas- 
ure fleet, 164; fears an appeal 
by France to the Family 
Compact, 175; com/pared with 
Aranda, 175 fn. ; crystalliza- 
tion of views of, respecting 
the American peril, 176-78; 



angry correspondence with 
Aranda, 179-80 fn.; efforts of, 
to make Spain mediator re- 
buffed by England, 181; bet- 
ter success of, 182; wishes to 
see American independence 
neutralized, 184-5 ; discloses 
his intention to make Spanish 
objectives the sine qud non 
of peace, 185, 189; definite ob- 
jectives sought by, for Spain, 
190; shapes the Convention of 
Aranjuez, 191-2; offers Eng- 
land Spanish mediation on 
the basis of the status quo in 
America, 214-5 ; recognizes 
the extension of the United 
States to the Mississippi, 240, 
242; urges the status quo for 
the United States (1780), 
271-2; eccentric conduct of, 
with Jay, 319 ff.; admits 
that Spain will not recognize 
American independence be- 
fore England, 321-2; lack of 
self-possession of, ib. fn.; em- 
phasizes Spain's interest in 
her monopoly of commerce in 
the Gulf of Mexico, 322; 
solicits terms of a treaty 
from Jay, 324-5; anger of, 
with Aranda in consequence 
of Spain's failure to obtain 
Gibraltar by the peace, 356. 

Floridas, The: Holker's in- 
structions with reference to 
(Nov. 25, 1777), 12 fn. ; ex- 
changed by Spain for Ha- 
vana, 36; recovery of, sought 
by Spain, 112, 161, 190-1, 
197-8. See also Appendix V. 

Forth: British emissary to 
France (1777), presents In- 
formally English demands 
with reference to American 
privateers, 115; offers France 
a guaranty of her West In- 
dian possessions, ib.; repre- 
sentations of, go unsup- 

ported, 116-7; offers France 
a separate peace, 331 fn. 
Fox, Charles: Quarrel of, with 
Shelburne over the control of 
the peace negotiations, 331-2 

France: Motives for entering 
the Revolution, chs. I and II, 
especially pp. 49-53, ch. VI, 
and appendices II and III; 
diplomatic object of, in the 
18th century, 23 ff., 50; guar- 
antor of the Treaty of West- 
phalia, 28, 59, 169-70; ne- 
glects her navy, 28-30; losses 
by the Seven Years' War, 37- 
8; humiliated by the Treaty 
of Paris, 38; also, by the par- 
tition of Poland, 45-6; inter- 
vention of, in the Revolution 
foretold, ch. II, note 52; 
weak navy of (1776), 87 fn.; 
hazardous position of, early 
in 1777, 99; apology of, to 
Europe for entering the 
Revolution, 144-5 fn.; breaks 
with England, 168-9; cham- 
pion of neutral rights, 170- 
2; attitude of, on the Wes- 
tern Land question, 232 If.; 
benefits received by, from the 
Treaty of Peace, ch. XVI; 
prestige of, restored on the 
Continent, 361-2; position of, 
arouses English jealousy, 365- 
6; failure of, to secure Amer- 
ican trade, 369-71 and fn.; 
influence of, threatened by an 
Austro-Russian rapproche- 
ment, 372; temporary tri- 
umph of, in Holland, 374; 
terrible cost to, of her inter- 
vention in America, 375-6; 
see also "Spain" and "Ver- 

Franklin: Foresees French in- 
tervention in the British- 
American dispute, 44 fn. 38, 
52 fn. ; arrives in France 



(Dec., 1776), 93; immense 
reputation of, and its effect 
on the American cause, 93-4; 
first audience with Vergennes 
and demands of, 95; joins 
with Deane and Lee in trans- 
cending the Congressional in- 
structions, 96-7; proposes a 
plan of alliance to Aranda, 
97; intervenes in behalf of 
American privateers, 100 ; 
prepares memoir to the 
French government with 
Deane and Abb6 Niccoli, 118 
fn.; acquiesces in the idea of 
a truce, 186; holds lands 
west of the Mountains to be 
at Congress' disposal, 219 
and fn.; personal interests 
of, in an English grant west 
of the Mountains, 226, 302 
fn.; treats the Mississippi as 
the western boundary of the 
United States (Dec., 1775), 
241 fn.; appointed peace ne- 
gotiator, 301; views of, on 
method of negotiating peace, 
329 fn.; articles proposed by, 
to Oswald as "necessary," 
330; confidence of, in good 
faith of Vergennes, 333; joins 
with Jay and Adams in ne- 
gotiating without regarding 
the Instructions of June 15, 
1781, 340; returns a soothing 
answer to Vergennes' re- 
proaches, 341 fn.; signs a 1 
declaration (Jan. 20, 1783) 
explanatory of the Provision- 
al Articles, 357-8. 

Frederick II: Makes treaty of 
Westminster with England 
(1756), 31; participates in 
partition of Poland, 45. 

Gardoqui, Don Diego: Inter- 
est of, in American trade, 
320; negotiations of, with 
Jay concerning the naviga- 

tion of the Mississippi, ib. 
and fn. 

Gamier: Char g 6 d'affaires at 
London, 64; reports of, on 
the English situation, 64-6; 
communicates news of the 
Declaration of Independence, 
84; sends news of the Ameri- 
can defeat at Long Island, 85. 

George III: Control of Parlia- 
ment, 4; calls the Americans 
"rebels" (Aug., 1775); dis- 
like of, for Chatham, 64-5, 
124 fn.; obstinacy in matter 
of American independence, 
121-2; slow to recognize that 
France intends war, 163 fn. 

Gerard (Conrad Gerard de 
Rayneval) : Secretary to Ver- 
gennes, 69; Reflexions of 
(Nov., 1775), 69-72; denies 
that the Americans will be- 
come a conquering nation, 
110; interview of, with the 
three American Commissioners 
(Dec. 17, 1777), 150-1; com- 
municates to the commission- 
ers the king's decision to 
make an alliance with the 
United States (Jan. 8, 1778), 
152-3; sent as first French 
envoy to America, 169; in- 
structed to prepare Congress 
for a truce and indirect rec- 
ognition, 187; fails to obtain 
a favorable declaration from 
Congress on this subject, 195; 
fails to obtain concessions 
from Congress for Spain re- 
specting the Floridas, 197-8; 
participation of, in Deane- 
Lee controversy, 208; obtains 
declaration from Congress 
against a separate peace; 
(Jan., 1779), 209; negotia- 
tions of, with Congress re- 
specting the Western Land 
and Fisheries questions, ch. 


XI; characterization of, 247 
fn.; leaves America in broken 
health, 261-2; influence of, 
seen in La Luzerne's instruc- 
tions, 265-7. 

Gibbon the Historian: Author 
of the M&moire justicatif, 
etc., 144. 

Gibraltar: Vergennes' willing- 
ness to exchange French 
possessions to secure, for 
Spain (1782), 6; recovery of, 
desired by Spain, 178, 190, 
347; pledge of Convention of 
Aranjuez, with reference to, 
193-4; struggle for (1781-2), 
287, 293, 313, 352; question 
of, delays peace, 347 fn., 348, 
353, 356-7 and fn. 

Grand: A secret agent of the 
French Foreign Office, 129. 

Grasse, Count de: Commander 
of French fleet in American 
waters, 293; correspondence 
of, with Rochambeau, 310-2; 
credit due, for Yorktown, 

Grenville, Thomas: British 
peace envoy, 331-2 fn.; mys- 
tifying assertions of, 333 and 

Grimaldi, Marquis de: Prime 
minister of Spain, 86, 98; is 
succeeded by Florida Blanca, 
105; cautions Aranda against 
the dangers of the American 
example, 108; meets Lee at 
the Spanish frontier and 
turns him back, ib. 

Guines, Count de: Ambassa- 
dor to England, sends Bon- 
vouloir to America, 73-4; 
favors an understanding with 
England and is superseded 
by Noailles, 78. 

Hartford Conference: Pro- 
ceedings of, 291-2. 

Hartley: An English friend of 
Franklin, 186, 330 fn. 

Holker: First emissary sent to 
America after Saratoga and 
first French consul at Phila- 
delphia, 120 and fn. 

Holland: Relations of, to 
France under Treaty of Ver- 
vins, 184, 186-7; the Republi- 
can party of, and France, 
83; breaks with England 
(1781), 285; enters into close 
alliance with France (1785), 
374; French influence in, 
overthrown by England, 375. 

Howes, The: British comman- 
ders in America, and rumor- 
ed to be in negotiation with 
the Americans, 129-30 and 
fn.; victory of Lord Howe 
before Gibraltar, 352. 

Hutton: An English friend of 
Franklin, 126. 

Independence: Scope of the 
French guaranty of, 176, 183 
fn., 193. See also "Treaty of 
Alliance," "Truce," "Status 

Instructions of June 15, 1781: 
Terms of, 300-1; Congres- 
sional debates on, 301 ff. pas- 
sim; explanation of Congress' 
action in voting, ib.; instruc- 
tions supplementing, 315-7 ; 
criticized by Jay, 328; broken 
by Jay and his associates, 
338 ff. 

Jamaica: Vacillating attitude 
of Spain toward proposition 
to conquer, 178, 190, 287. 

Jay, John: President of Con- 
gress, 249-50; confers with 
Gerard on the Western Land 
and Fisheries questions, 250- 
2, 259; appointed envoy to 
Madrid, 261; instructions of 
Congress to, respecting the 
navigation of the Mississippi, 
261, 270 fn., 280 and fn., 323; 
appointed peace negotiator, 
301; mission of, to Spain, ch. 


XIV; submits scheme of 
treaty with Spain, 325; re- 
quested by Franklin to come 
to Paris, 326; fruitless at- 
tempts at negotiation with 
Aranda, ib.; effect upon, of 
his Spanish experiences, 327- 
8; part of, in the negotiations 
of 1782, ch. XV; is opposed 
to Oswald's first commission, 
331-3; suspicions of, and 
their validity, 333-9, 346-9 
and notes; sends Vaughan to 
England, 339; insists on 
America's fidelity to France, 
342 fn.; willing to see Great 
Britain reconquer West Flor- 
ida, ib.; beneficial results of 
conduct of, 350-5. 
Jefferson, Thomas: Governor 
of Virginia, appointed peace 
negotiator, 301-2 and fn. 
Jenifer: Member of Congress 
from Maryland, a leader of 
the "landless" state party, 
280 fn., 304. 

Kalb, John (later Baron de) : 
Sent to America by Choiseul 
(1767), 42-3; report of, un- 
favorable to French interven- 
tion, ib.; acts as agent of 
Broglie, 90. 

La Fayette, Marquis de: Comes 
to America (1777), 90; plans 
joint French- American cam- 
paign in Canada, 203; visits 
France and secures the des- 
patch to America of forces 
under Rochambeau and Ter- 
nay, 287-8. 

La Luzerne, Chevalier de: Sec- 
ond plenipotentiary to the 
United States, characteriza- 
tion of, 263-4 and fn.; Ver- 
gennes' first instructions to, 
256-6; negotiations of, with 
Congress respecting Spain's 
interests, 267 ff.; Vergennes' 
later instructions to, touch- 

ing this matter, 278-9, 281; 
negotiations of, with Con- 
gress leading to the Instruc- 
tions of June 15, 1781, 297 
if. ; assents to an American 
invasion of Canada (1781) 
305; details American expec- 
tations from the treaty of 
peace, 308-9 and fn. 

Laurens, Henry: Appointed 
peace negotiator, 301 ; is cap- 
tured by the British and 
lodged in the Tower of Lon- 
don, 302 fn. 

Laurens, Col. John: Is sent to 
France by Congress to obtain 
a loan (Feb., 1781), 292 and 

Lee, Arthur: In London 
(1775), 66; goes to Spain and 
is turned back (Mar., 1T77), 
98; accused of communicating 
the French-American Treaty 
to the British government, 
166-7 fn.; controversy with 
Deane, 207-8; is prevented 
by La Luzerne from becom- 
ing secretary of Foreign Af- 
fairs, 265; criticism of, on the 
Instructions of June 15, 1781, 
305 fn. 

Lee, Richard Henry: Attitude 
of, on question of a separate 
peace, 208 and fn. 

Livingston, Robert R.: Elec- 
tion of, to secretaryship of 
Foreign Affairs is promoted 
by La Luzerne, 265; letter of, 
to Franklin (Jan., 1782) in 
support of American claims 
in the West, 316 fn. See 

Long Island, Battle of: Bad 
effect of, on American pros- 
pects in France, 85-8. 
Louis XV: His Secret du Rot, 
45; unpopular at death on 
account of France's humilia- 
tions abroad, 51 fn. 



Louis XVI: Pledges re- 
forms, 7, 60 and fn.; dislikes 
idea of aiding rebels, 8 fn. 
and appendix IV; chooses 
cabinet, 54; ratifies the policy 
of secret aid, 79; extends fi- 
nancial aid to the Colonies, 
95-6, 120; agrees to war with 
England and an alliance with 
the United States if Spain is 
favorable, 103-4; decides to 
make new gift to America, 
120; convinced of "the moral 
certainty of peril," 129 and 
fn., 142-3; point of view of, 
to be distinguished from that 
of the Foreign Office, 148; 
authorizes the declaration of 
the Treaty of Amity and 
Commerce (Mar. 7, 1778), 
166-7; sends letters to Con- 
gress, 168-9; on the point of 
stopping the war for finan- 
cial reasons (1780), 284-5; 
goes to the guillotine, 358. 

Louisiana: Not a French ob- 
jective in the Revolution, 9- 
11; transferred by France to 
Spain (1762), 36. See "Mis- 
sissippi and Western Land 

Madison, James: Argument of 
(Oct., 1780), against Spain's 
claim of a right to conquer 
British possessions along the 
Mississippi, 270-1 fn.; criti- 
cizes the conduct of the 
American peace negotiators, 

"Manifest Destiny": Origins 
of the idea, 217-19 fn. 

Marbois: Secretary to La 
Luzerne, urges Spam's claims 
upon Congress, 280-1; letter 
of, opposing the American 
claims to the fisheries, 337-8 
and fn. 

Maria Theresa: Assists in the 
partition of Poland (1772), 

45; desires peace (1778), 170. 

Maryland: Opposes the claims 
of the "landed" states, 220 
fn., 232. 

Maurepas, Count de: Urges 
restoration of French Ma- 
rine (1730-40), 28-9; urges a 
belligerent policy toward 
England, 78-9 and fn. 

Mercantile System: Leading 
ideas of, 15-7 and fn., 28-9, 
33-4; connection with French 
intervention, 18-9, 41-2, 44. 

Miralles, Juan de: Spanish, 
agent, arrives in America, 
243-4; views of, on the con- 
flicting interests of Spain and 
the United States, 244-5 and 
fn. ; determines views of Ger- 
ard, 245 ff. ; proposes pur- 
chase of American claims in 
the West, 251-2; spreads 
false reports respecting 
Spain's attitude, 255; admits 
lack of powers or instruc- 
tions from Madrid, 269; dies, 

Mississippi and Western Land 
Question, The: See chs. X- 
XII; also chs. XIV-XV pas- 

Monroe Doctrine, The: Some 
antecedents of, 201 fn., 369 fn. 

Montmorin, Count de: Friend 
of Louis and Vergennes, be- 
comes ambassador at Madrid, 
156; urged by Vergennes to 
arouse the Spanish govern- 
ment to an appreciation of 
the opportunity presented by 
the Revolution, 156-7; en- 
counters Florida Blanca's 
wrath at the action of France 
in negotiating with the 
Americans, 158-60; says that 
Spain wants "shining ob- 
jects," 161; is sceptical of 
value of Spanish aid, 180; 
signs the Convention of Aran- 



juez (Apr. 12, 1779), 192; 
warns Vergennes of Spain's 
hostility toward America, 216. 

Morris, Gouverneur: Views of, 
on the Western Land ques- 
tion, 248-9. 

Nentrals, Rights of: French gov- 
ernment champions, against 
English sea-power, 21, 80-1 
and fn., 170-2. See "Cather- 
ine II." 

Newfoundland Fisheries, The: 
An enlargement of rights in 
connection with, offered 
France by England (1778), 7 
fn.; a share in, desired by 
Spain, 161, 178; French 

ledge with reference to, to 
pain, 191, 197-9 and fn.; 
Congressional views respect- 
ing American rights in, 257 
ff.; final instructions of Con- 
gress concerning, 314-6. See 
appendix V. 

Noailles, Duke de: Opposes 
France's entrance into the 
War of the Austrian Succes- 
sion, 29; succeeds the Count 
de Guines as ambassador to 
England (1776), 78; reliabil- 
ity of reports of, from Lon- 
don, 131; points of disagree- 
ment of, with Vergennes, 131- 
2; communicates the Treaty 
of Amity and Commerce to 
the British government, 168; 
leaves England, ib. and fn. 

North, Lord: Sentiments at- 
tributed to, by Vergennes, 
131, 133; introduces plan of 
conciliation into Parliament, 
165 and fn.; fall of, from 
power, 331 fn. 

Ossun, Marquis d': Ambassa- 
dor at Madrid, 103; sup- 
planted by the Count de 
Montmorin, 156. 

Oswald, Richard: British peace 
negotiator, 330 ff. passim. 

Parliament: Debates in, after 
Saratoga, 133 fn. 

Peace Negotiations of 1782: 
Early stages of, 329-32 fns. 
See "Jay." 

Phillips, Dr. P. C.: Views of, 
respecting the results of 
Jay's conduct of the peace 
negotiations considered, 350 

Poland, First Partition of: in 
relation to French diplomacy, 
45; denounced by Vergennes, 

Pontleroy: Early French agent 
to America, 40-1. 

Price, Dr. Richard: Predicts 
American greatness, 218 fn. 

Proclamation of 1763, The: 
considered in connection with 
the Western Land question, 
224-7 and notes. 

Provisional Articles, The: Pro- 
visions of, see appendix V; 
the signing of, 339^-0; ques- 
tions respecting the interpre- 
tation of, 340 fn.; real im- 
port of, 342; reception of, by 
Congress, 344-5, 354-5; esti- 
mate of, by the French For- 
eign Office, 355 and fn. 

Quebec Act, The: Bearing of, 
on the Western Land ques- 
tion, 226-7 and fn. 

Raynal, Abb6: His Histoire 
des Indes on the importance 
of naval power, 48-9; influ- 
ence of his work, ib. 

Rayneval, J. M. Gerard de: 
Secretary to Vergennes, on 
the status quo, 296-7 fn. ; rep- 
resentations of, to Jay on the 
Mississippi question, 336 ; 
mystery surrounding journey 
of, to England, ib.; Jay's sus- 
picions regarding, 339; finds 
Shelburne stiff on the ques- 
tion of Gibraltar, 347 fn.; 
conversations of, with Shel- 



burne respecting American 
interests, 348 ff. and fn.; 
marvels at the success of the 
Americans, 355. 

Rendon: Successor to Miralles, 

Richmond, Lord: Advocates 
American independence, 133. 

Rochambeau, Count de: Brings 
a military force to the United 
States (1780), 276-7, 288-9; 
deep concern of, on account 
of American conditions, 292, 
310-1; credit due, for York- 
town, 31 1, 313. 

Rochford, Lord: Scheme for 
joint guaranty of French, 
Spanish and English posses- 
sions in America, 6-7; friend 
of Beaumarchais, 65. 

Rockingham, Lord: Rumored 
hostile intentions of, toward 
France, 65; advocates un- 
qualified independence for the 
Americans, 133 fn., 168 fn.; 
succeeds North, 331 fn.; dies, 
332 fn. 

Rodney: British admiral, de- 
feats Grasse in the West In- 
dies (Apr., 1782), 316-7. 

Rouille: Minister of the 
Marine, (1749), 31. 

Saint-Contest: Secretary of 
state (1751), 30. 

St. Germain: Secretary of 
state for War, and favorable 
to an aggressive diplomatic 
policy, 78; sends Steuben to 
America, 90; is supplanted- 
by S6gur, 285. 

Sandwich, Lord: Member of 
the British ministry, not 
author of sentiment attributed 
to him, 132; estimates Brit- 
ish naval strength, 134. 

Santo Domingo: Question of 
defense of, 6 fn., 89-90 fn. 

Saratoga, Battle of: Brings 
about the French-American 

alliance, 120, 121 and fn., 141. 

Sartines: Secretary of state 
for the Marine, favorable to 
an aggressive diplomatic 
policy, 78; is displaced by 
Castries, 285. 

S6gur, The Elder: Becomes 
secretary of state for War 
(1781), 285. 

"Sea-to-Sea" Charters, The: As 
basis of the claims of the 
United States in the West, 
220 ff. 

Secret Aid, Policy of: See 
"Vergennes" and "Beaumar- 
chais"; kept a secret even 
from the Americans at first, 
80; raises diplomatic ques- 
tions, 80-1; the secret of, 
known to the British govern- 
ment, 93 and fn. 

"Secret Article": Of the 
Treaty of Alliance, see ap- 
pendix I; of the Provisional 
Articles, see appendix V. 

"Secret du Roi," The: See 
"Louis XV". 

Separate Peace: Origin of the 
idea of, between England and 
America, 206; notion corn- 
batted by Vergennes, ib.; dis- 
avowed by Congress, 209 
and fn. 

Seven Years War: Begun by 
England without warning, 3; 
auspicious opening of, for 
France, 31; calamities of 
later stages of, 32 8. 

Shelburne, Lord: Part of, in 
instituting the peace negoti- 
ations of 1782, 331-2 fn.; good 
faith of, doubted by Jay, 333- 
5 and notes; authorizes Os- 
wald's second commission, 
339; conferences of, with 
Rayneval, 339, 347 fn., 348- 
50 fn.; refuses to take Parli- 
ament into his confidence re- 
specting the Provisional Arti- 



cles, 340 fn.; effect on, of 
Howe's victory before Gib- 
raltar, 352-3 ; urges a French- 
English rapprochement 
against the northern powers, 
372-3 fn. 

Spain: Dispute of, with 
Portugal over interests in 
South America (1774-7), 61, 
81-3, 104; is alarmed at the 
prospect of American inde- 
pendence, chs. V and VIII 
passim; temporizing attitude 
of, 178-9 and fn.; question of 
the value of aid of, to France, 
180, 211-2 and fn.; seeks rdle 
of mediator 180 ff.; self- 
seeking policy of, 106, 161, 
178, 180, 192; desires a mo- 
nopoly of trade in the Carib- 
bean, 178, 190, 322; desires to 
recover the Floridas and a 
share in the Newfoundland 
fisheries, see under those 
headings; final terms of 
mediation of, 214-5; enters 
the war (June, 1779), 216; 
grant by, of navigation of the 
Mississippi to British sub- 
jects (1763), 227-8 fn.; op- 
poses American extension to 
the Mississippi, 227-30; at- 
tempts of, to make conquests 
along the Mississippi arouse 
American opposition, 268-9 
and fn. ; secret negotiations 
of, with England (1780), 271- 
2; re-enters the war (1781), 
287; interests of, preferred 
by France to those of the 
United States, 293-4; ambi- 
tions of, a bar to peace, 333- 
4, 346-7, 353, 355-7; American 
gratitude claimed for, 345. 
See "Florida Blanca," "Ray- 
neval," "Vergennes." 

Spies: Numerous in Paris in 
1777, 98. 

Status Quo, The: Opposition 

of Vergennes to, for the 
United States, 215, 271-2; ac- 
ceptance of, by France for 
the United States admitted 
by Vergennes to be possible 
(1781), 296-8 and notes; re- 
jected by Vergennes for the 
United States, 314 fn. 

Steuben, Baron von: Sent to 
America by St. Germain, to 
train the American army 
(1777), 90. 

Stormont, Lord: British am- 
bassador at Paris (1774 ff.), 
67; discusses, the American 
situation with Vergennes 
(Sept., 1775), '&.; remon- 
strates against secret aid, 93 
and fn. ; remonstrates against 
the admission of American 
privateers to French harbors, 
100; charges Vergennes with 
negotiating with the Ameri- 
cans, 163-5; avoids a cate- 
gorical answer from the 
French government, i&.; 
leaves France, 168 and fn. 

Sullivan, General: "Hero of 
Newport," sells out to the 
French envoy, 303. 

Sweden: Coup d'etat in, effect- 
ed by Vergennes (1771), 55. 

Ternay: French naval com- 
mander, see "Rochambeau." 

Ticonderoga: British capture 
of, injures American pros- 
pects in France, 117. 

Treaty of Alliance (Feb. 6, 
1778) : Principal features of, 
authorized by the royal coun- 
cil (Jan. 7, 1778) ; final draft 
of, signed, 154; text of, ap- 
pendix I; existence of, sus- 
pected in England from an 
early date, 163 fn., 165-6 and 
fn.; meaning of the word 
"continent" in article VI of, 
199 and fn.; interpretation 
of articles XI and XII of, 


233 ff.; after the Revolution, 
358-60 and fn. 

Treaty of Amity and Commerce 
(Feb. 6, 1778): Difficulty 
respecting articles XI and 
XII of, 155 fn.; articles 
XXIII-XXVIII summarized, 
171; declaration of, urged by 
Vergennes (Jan. 22, 1778), 
and authorized by Louis 
(Mar. 7), 166-8. 

Treaty of Aranjuez (Apr. 12, 
1779): Signed, 192; provi- 
sions of, 193-4; compared with 
the French- American treaty, 
ch. IX. 

Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji: 
Turkey menaced by, 60-1. 

Treaty of Paris (1763): Pro- 
visions of, 36-7. 

Treaty of Teschen: A triumph 
for Vergennes' policy, 170. 

Truce: Suggestion of, in lieu 
of a final peace, 183-4, 186-7, 

Turgot: As Louis XVI's con- 
troller-General contends for 
economy and domestic reform 
as against an aggressive dip- 
lomatic policy, 1, 72; an- 
swers Vergennes' Mtmoire de 
Considerations, 76-7; fights a 
losing fight and retires, 77-9. 

Turner, Professor F. J. : Theory 
that France sought American 
territory in the Revolution, 
9-11 and fn. 

United States: Commerce with, 
as an inducement to French 
intervention, 12-4 and fn. ; 
naval capacity of, predicted 
by Vergennes, 67-8; not 
likely to become a conquering 
state, 111; permanent separa- 
tion of, from England Ver- 
gennes' principal objective, 
137 ff. and notes; a disap- 
pointing ally, 177 footnote, 
188; basis of claims of, to 

the West, ch. X; argued to be 
a sovereign entity, 230-2 and 
notes; struggle of, for inde- 
pendence near collapse (1780- 
81), 288-9; French views of, 
290 fn.; significance for, of 
the Provisional Articles, see 
under that title. See also 
"Commissioners," "Congress," 
"Manifest Destiny," "Monroe 

Van Tyne, Prof. C. H.: Views 
of, respecting French motives 
considered, 146-8 note. 

Vaughan, Benjamin: Friend of 
Franklin and Shelburne, sent 
by Jay to London, 339, 352. 

Vergennes: Argument to show 
that French intervention in 
the Revolution was a defen- 
sive measure, 3-9, and ch. VI ; 
little interested in French 
colonies, 6 fn. 4; alleged 
Mtmoire of, published in 
1802, 10-3 and fn.; on com- 
merce with the United States, 
13-4; becomes secretary of 
state for Foreign Affairs 
(1774), 54; early career of, 
54-5; characteristics and dip- 
lomatic creed of, 56-60; ini- 
tial attitude toward England 
and the American Revolution, 
60-2; denunciation of Eng- 
land, 62-3; alarmed at pros- 
pect of return of Chatham 
to power, 64-5; takes a more 
positive interest in the Amer- 
ican situation, 66 ff.; M6- 
moire de Considerations of 
(Mar., 1776), 74-6; claims 
right for France to trade 
with the American rebels and 
receive their merchantmen in 
her harbors, 80-1; opposes 
Spanish conquest of Portugal, 
82, 85, 104; urges war with 
England (July-August, 1776), 
83-5; receives Deane and 



learns of Declaration of In- 
dependence, 84 and fn.; 
draws back after the news 
of Long Island, 85-6; con- 
gratulates Stormont on Brit- 
ish successes, 86; pursues a 
policy of "watchful waiting" 
(Jan.-July, 1 777), 87 ff.; urges 
the preeminent interest of 
France and Spain in procur- 
ing the separation of Eng- 
land and North America, 86- 
9; delivers a homily on peace, 
88, opposes a general dis- 
armament and an under- 
standing with England, 89 
and fn.; question of attitude 
of, toward Broglie's Stat- 
holderate idea, 91-2; receives 
Franklin but evades a formal 
audience, 95; promises finan- 
cial aid to the Colonies (Jan. 
1777), 95-6; precautions in 
behalf of secrecy, ib. fn.; 
is sceptical of the substance 
of the American revolt (Mar., 
1777), 97; is sceptical of 
rumors of an hostile English- 
American coalition (early 
1777), 99; policy of toward 
American privateers, 99 ff.; 
again urges war with Eng- 
land (July, 1777), 101-4; en- 
deavors to allay Spanish ap- 
prehensions regarding Amer- 
ican independence, 111, 177 
fn.; consents to follow Mad- 
rid's lead (Aug., 1777), 113- 
4; urges that Forth's de- 
mand that American priva- 
teers be excluded from 
French ports be rejected, 
115-6; anticipates the early 
outbreak of war with Eng- 
land (Sept., 1777), 116; 
again retreats after the ar- 
rival of the news of Ticon- 
deroga, 117; proposes a 
pledge of financial aid to the 

Americans, 119-20; renews 
in a new form after Sara- 
toga the idea that French 
possessions in the West In- 
dies are in danger of being 
attacked by an English- 
American coalition, 121-5 ; 
evidence brought forward by, 
to support this notion, 126- 
34; instances of disingenuous- 
ness of, in this connection, 
132-4; contradictions and in- 
consistencies of, 135-8; de- 
clares enfeeblement of Eng- 
land to be France's principal 
objective, 139-40 and fns.; 
urges defensive aspect of his 
program, 140, 167, fns.; real 
concern of, after Saratoga, 
141; reason for alarmism of, 
142 ff.; initial advances to the 
American commissioners af- 
ter Saratoga, 149-50; offers a 
defensive alliance, 151-3; re- 
sists American demand for 
an offensive alliance, 154; 
urges his policy on the 
Spanish government, 155-7 ; 
finesse of, in delaying trans- 
mission to Spain of news of 
the French- American negotia- 
tions, 159; significant inter- 
view with Stormont (Jan. 22, 
1778), 161; presses for an 
open breach with England, 
161 ff.; distrust of Arthur 
Lee, 166-7 fn., 187; policy of, 
in War of Bavarian Succes- 
sion, 169-70; adopts liberal 
policy toward neutral rights, 
170-2; impatience of, to bring 
Spain into the war, 173, 178, 
180, 188; willing to support 
Spanish mediation, 182; care- 
ful of American rights, 183 
fn.; attitude of, toward idea 
of a truce instead of a peace 
for America, 186-7; gives 
Montmorin carte-blanche in 



negotiating with Spain, 189; 
sends Montmorin a draft of 
treaty with Spain, 190; aims 
to safeguard France's honor 
with respect to American in- 
terests, 192-3; instructions of, 
to Gerard with reference to 
a truce, 196; same, with ref- 
erence to the Floridas and 
Canada, 197 ff., 254; plans 
a free state in Canada under 
French protection, 201-2 ; 
combats the idea that Ameri- 
ca may make a separate 
peace with England, 206; bit- 
terly criticizes Florida 
Blanca's terms of mediation 
(Apr., 1779), 215; recognizes 
the extension of the United 
States to the Mississippi, 240- 
2 and notes ; favors American 
navigation of the Mississippi, 
254-5; adopts the Spanish 
point of view in his Instruc- 
tions d'Arrivte to La Lu- 
zerne, 265-6; fears that Spain 
seeks to impose the status 
quo on the United States 
(1780), 271-2 and fn.; alter- 
cations of, with John Adams, 
273-8; instructs La Luzerne 
not to take sides in matters 
at issue between Spain and 
America, 278-81; review of 
attitude of, on the Mississip- 
pi question, 281-3; intercedes 
with the king to continue the 
war (Sept., 1780), 284-5; re- 
organizes the Departments of 
War and Marine, ib.; favors 
the offer of mediation by the 
imperial powers and a vigo- 
rous campaign, 286-7; disap- 
pointed in the Americans as 
allies, 289; response of, to 
the demands of the Hartford 
Conference, 292-3; consider- 
ations governing, at this time, 
293-4; demands of, upon 

Congress in respect to peace- 
making, 295-6; admission of, 
that France may accept the 
status quo for the United 
States, 295-8 and notes; 
broad scope of the program 
of, in intervening in the Rev- 
olution, 307; not directly re- 
sponsible for the Yorktown 
campaign, 313; recognizes the 
unfeasibility of the status 
quo for America, 313-4 fn.; 
views of, as to the method to 
be pursued in peace-making, 
329 fn.; refuses to treat with 
Grenville respecting Ameri- 
can interests, 332 fn.; urges 
the American commissioners, 
to accept Oswald's first com- 
mission, 332-3 ; announces that 
France will not proceed with 
England unless she is ready 
to recognize American inde- 
pendence, 334 fn.; is non- 
committal as to the conflict- 
ing claims of Spain and the 
United States, 336; comment 
of, on Marbois' letter re- 
specting the fisheries, 337 f n. ; 
announces that France will 
not continue the war to se- 
cure American demands re- 
specting the fisheries and 
Western territory, 337-9 fn., 
347-8 fn.; letter of (Dec. 15, 
1782), to Franklin protesting 
against the course taken by 
the American commissioners, 
340-2; states the two essen- 
tial conditions of peace, 347 
fn.; expresses surprise at the 
favorable terms secured by 
the Americans, 355 and fn. 
presses the negotiations in 
Spain's behalf, 355-6; delight 
of, at the conclusion of peace, 
356-7; opposed by a war 
party at court, 357 fn.; re- 
views the success of his policy 



(Mar., 1784), 361-2. desires 
the gratitude of the Ameri- 
can people for France, 368-9 
and fn. ; negotiates a com- 
mercial treaty with England 
(1786), 371; urges a strong 
fleet for France, ib.; is dis- 
mayed by the rapprochement 
of Austria and Russia, 372; 
admits that Continental peace 
is precarious, 373; wins his 
last diplomatic triumph, 374; 
death of, 376; final apology 
of, for his American venture, 

Virginia: Claims of, in the 
West, 221, 222-4 fn. 

Washington, General: Opposes 
French participation in a 
campaign in Canada, 204; 
views of, on the Western 
Land question, 251 fn.; 
growth of French regard for, 
291 and fn.; attends Hart- 
ford Conference (Sept., 
1780), 16. 

Wentworth, Paul: Activities 
as British spy, 118 fn. 127 
and fn., 130 fn., 163. fn. 

West Indies, The French: and 
the Treaty of Paris, 19-20, 

37; value of, after 1763, 5-6 
and fn., 44, 63, 75-6, 136-7; 
independence of, proposed by 
Choiseul's secretary-general 
of Commerce, 44; asserted to 
be in danger from a joint 
English-American attack, 3, 
75, 98-9, 121 ff.; English of- 
fers to guarantee, 6-7 and 
fn., 115-16; American offers 
to guarantee, 21, 95, 97; 
chosen for the scene of 
French-Spanish naval efforts 
(1781), 287, 293; Grasse's de- 
feat in, by Rodney, 313, 316; 
equivalents demanded in, by 
England in return for Gib- 
raltar, 355-6 fn., 357 fn.; 
great French-Spanish expedi- 
tion prepared for (1783), ib.; 
French gains in, by the 
Peace of 1783 insignificant, 

Witherspoon: Member of Con- 
gress from New Jersey, a 
leader of the "landless" state 
party, 304. 

Wolfe, General James: Pro- 
phecy by, of America's des- 
tiny, 218 fn. 


his book is due on the last DATE stamped below. 


:ii lT77_r: 

"B 1RECT) 

GVI577 - 

, o vi 1971 


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